The Public Distribution System in India is aimed at eliminating hunger and ensuring food security for every Indian. Unfortunately, India remains home to about 1/3rd of the world’s hungry people and about 47% of Indian children are malnourished. It is obvious that the design and functioning of the PDS leaves a lot to be desired. The food subsidies provided are not universal and due to unfair criteria for ascertaining target groups and errors in registration and identification of the poor, many deserving people are unable to access them. Rampant corruption and inefficiencies lead to large-scale diversion of grains and wastage. Also, the current food quota of 25kg of grain per month per household for BPL families is insufficient. For the PDS to be successful, it is important that it be universalised so that every household in India is guaranteed a minimum quantity of food grain. This will automatically eliminate errors of exclusion which are inherent in a targeted system. Recent initiatives by the government to introduce an Universal Identification Card to improve targeting will only aggravate the problem of unfair exclusion as it is could be affected by fingerprint issues, connectivity and power-supply problems. Direct cash transfers will expose the country’s poorest people to the vagaries of the open market, to which many of them currently do not even have proper access due to lack of roads and transport facilities. The government should concentrate its resources and energy on universalisation of the PDS, and increasing food entitlements to ensure food security and address the structural roots of hunger.

Asha Parivar is working to improve the implementation of the PDS in rural Uttar Pradesh. It helps people who are unable to benefit from the system file complaints and RTI applications with village, block and state level authorities, which help uncover corruption and inefficiencies. Volunteers take up matters concerning the functioning of the system with government officials and support campaigns for improvement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.