Public Distribution System in India

India’s Public Distribution System (PDS) is the largest distribution network. TPDS aims to provide subsidised food and fuel to the poor through a network of ration shops. Food grains such as rice and wheat that are provided under TPDS are procured from farmers, allocated to states and delivered to the ration shop where the beneficiary buys his entitlement. The centre and states share the responsibilities of identifying the poor, procuring grains and delivering food grains to beneficiaries.

Laws and Regulations governing TPDS

• Essential Commodities Act and PDS (Control) Order

TPDS is administered under the Public Distribution System (Control) Order 2001 notified under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (ECA). The ECA regulates the production, supply, and distribution of essential commodities including edible oils, food crops such as wheat, rice, and sugar, among others. It regulates prices, cultivation and distribution of essential commodities. The PDS (Control) Order, 2001 specifies the framework for the implementation of TPDS. It highlights key aspects of the scheme including the method of identification of beneficiaries, the issue of food grains, and the mechanism for distribution of food grains from the centre to states.

• PUCL vs. Union of India, 2001

In 2001, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court contending that the “right to food” is essential to the right to life as provided in Article 21 of the Constitution. During the ongoing litigation, the Court has issued several interim orders, including the implementation of eight central schemes as legal entitlements. These include PDS, Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). In 2008, the Court ordered that Below Poverty Line (BPL) families be entitled to 35 kg of food grains per month at subsidised prices.

• National Food Security Act, 2013

The National Food Security Act gives statutory backing to the TPDS. This legislation marks a shift in the right to food as a legal right rather than a general entitlement. The Act classifies the population into three categories: excluded (i.e., no entitlement), priority (entitlement), and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY; higher entitlement).

Salient Features

a) Coverage and entitlement under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS): Upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be covered under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month. However, since Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households constitute poorest of the poor, and are presently entitled to 35 kg per household per month, entitlement of existing AAY households will be protected at 35 kg per household per month.

b) Subsidised prices under TPDS and their revision: Foodgrains under TPDS will be made available at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act. Thereafter prices will be as fixed by the Central Government from time to time, not exceeding MSP. It has been decided by the Government to continue the above mentioned subsidized prices upto June, 2018.

c) Identification of Households: Within the coverage under TPDS determined for each State, the work of identification of eligible households is to be done by States/UTs.

d) Nutritional Support to women and children : Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes. Higher nutritional norms have been prescribed for malnourished children upto 6 years of age.

e) Maternity Benefit: Pregnant women and lactating mothers will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.

f) Women Empowerment: Eldest woman of the household of age 18 years or above to be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.

g) Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. States will have the flexibility to use the existing machinery or set up separate mechanism.

h) Cost of intra-State transportation & handling of foodgrains and FPS Dealers' margin : Central Government will provide assistance to States in meeting the expenditure incurred by them on transportation of foodgrains within the State, its handling and FPS dealers’ margin as per norms to be devised for this purpose.

i) Transparency and Accountability: Provisions have been made for disclosure of records relating to PDS, social audits and setting up of Vigilance Committees in order to ensure transparency and accountability.

j) Food Security Allowance: Provision for food security allowance to entitled beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals.

k) Penalty: Provision for penalty on public servant or authority, to be imposed by the State Food Commission, in case of failure to comply with the relief recommended by the District Grievance Redressal Officer.

Practice question:

1. Village Grain Bank Scheme is concerned with:

1. Providing facility to borrow food grains in food scarce and calamity hit areas.
2. Giving loans for food supply chain creation in rural areas.
3. The scheme envisages inclusion of all willing BPL/AAY families in the villages to be identified by the State Government in food deficit areas.

Codes:

a) 1 and 2

b) 2 and 3

c) 1 and 3

d) All

Ans: (c )
Exp: The main objective of the scheme was to provide safeguard against starvation during the period of natural calamity or during lean season when the marginalized food insecure households did not have sufficient resources to purchase rations.
The scheme envisages inclusion of all willing BPL/AAY families in the villages to be identified by the State Government in food deficit areas. The quantity to be lent and the period of repayment is to be decided by the Group themselves. Village Panchayat/Gram Sabha, Self Help Group for NGOs etc. identified by the State Government are eligible for running the Grain Banks.