Public distribution system

Public distribution system

The Public Distribution System (PDS) was developed as a framework for managing emergency situations and distributing food at reasonable costs.

PDS is a key component of the government's strategy for managing the nation's food economy and has grown to be synonymous with the term "food security" over time.

History of PDS

  • Prior to 1992, PDS was an all-inclusive entitlement programme for consumers without any set target. 
  • But in 1992, PDS changed into RPDS (Revamped PDS), focusing on disadvantaged households, especially in remote, hilly, and difficult-to-reach locations. 
  • In 1997, RPDS changed its name to TPDS (Targeted PDS), which set up Fair Price Shops to provide food grains at discounted prices.

Growing significance of TPDS

  • In the People's Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, case the Supreme Court argued that the "right to food" is important to the right to life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • In accordance with this, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) was approved by Parliament in 2013. 
  • By distributing subsidised food grains to nearly two-thirds of the population, the NFSA aims to turn the right to eat into a legal entitlement. 
  • To deliver these entitlements, it uses the current Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) system.

Importance of PDS

  • Food grains are provided to the underprivileged at prices lower than those found in private stores.
  • Farmers are guaranteed a higher price because food grains are bought straight from them.

How does TPDS function?

  • Procurement of foodgrains- 
      • The centre is in charge of paying farmers a minimum support price for the food grains that they supply (MSP).
      • The FCI pays farmers directly for their harvest at the MSP, which is typically more than the market price.
      • The purpose of this is to support farmers' prices and encourage production.
      • The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) determines MSP.
      • There are two different types of procurement: centralised and decentralised.
      • The Food Corporation of India (FCI) uses centralised procurement, purchasing commodities directly from farmers.
      • Decentralized procurement is a central scheme that allows 10 states and union territories to buy food grains for the central pool at MSP on behalf of FCI.
  • Storage of food grains: 

      • Food grains are often stored in covered silos and godowns, in accordance with the FCI's storage recommendations. If FCI runs out of storage space, it rents space from a variety of organisations, including central and state warehousing corporations (CWC, SWC), state government organisations, and private parties.
  • Allocation of foodgrains:

      • Food grains from the central pool are distributed by the central government to the state governments at a set Central Issue Price (CIP) for PDS distribution.
      • Identification of the poor: Each state's government is responsible for locating the households that qualify. Other than that, it is up to the state governments to distribute food grains within each state, issue ration cards, and oversee the operation of Fair Price Shops (FPSs), among other things.
      • The number of identified households is used to determine how much funding is given to BPL and AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana - the poorest BPL families) families.
  • Transportation of food grains to FPSs

    • Food grain distribution is split between the central government and the states. The centre, more precisely FCI, is in charge of transporting grains to the state godowns as well as interstate transportation of food grains from purchasing to consuming states. State governments are responsible for distributing food grains to end customers once FCI distributes grains to the state depots.


  • Procurement issues: 
      • All incoming grains are accepted in open-ended procurement even if buffer stock is exhausted, causing a shortfall on the open market. The Nation Food Security Act's recent implementation will only result in more procurement, which will raise grain prices.
      • the gap between needed and available storage capacity.
  • Storage issues:
      • Lack of storage space with FCI.
      • damage to or spoiling of food grains stored in CAP or Cover & Plinth systems.
  • Allocation issues: 
      • incorrect beneficiary identification.
      • Illicit Fair Price stores: To sell food grains in the open market, the store operators have produced a sizable number of fictitious cards or ghost cards (cards for nonexistent customers).
  • Transportation issues
    • Food grain shipment spills and is diverted during transportation.

PDS reforms

    • The various reforms that various states have implemented include:
      • Adhaar Linked and digitized ration cards: This makes it possible to enter and validate beneficiary information online. Additionally, it permits online monitoring of beneficiaries' foodgrain consumption and monthly entitlements.
      • Computerized Fair Price Shops: By putting in a "Point of Sale" gadget, FPS automated the exchange of the ration card. It verifies the recipients and keeps track of how much grain aid was delivered to each home.
      • DBT: Cash is delivered to beneficiaries' accounts as part of the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme in place of the foodgrain subsidy component. People will have the freedom to purchase food grains from any vendor in the marketplace. The States/UTs would need to finish digitizing beneficiary data and seed Aadhaar and bank account information before using this strategy. Cash transfers alone are thought to be capable of saving the government's coffers Rs. 30,000 crores annually.
  • Use of GPS technology: Use of GPS technology to monitor the movement of trucks transporting food grains from state depots to FPS, which can aid in preventing diversion.
  • SMS-based monitoring: enables citizen monitoring so they can register their mobile phones and send/receive SMS warnings throughout the delivery and shipping of TPDS goods

Use of web-based citizens portal: Public complaint handling tools, such as a toll-free number call centers can be used to submit complaints or comments.

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