Leader Writer : Leivon Jimmy:
The Public Distribution System (PDS) as per the concept of the government of India was developed as a system of management of scarcity and for distribution of food grains at affordable prices for poor section of the society in the country. It has been clearly mentioned in the government’s gazette that PDS has become an important part of Government’s policy for management of food economy in the country. Although, it does not guarantees to fulfill the entire requirement but serves as a supplementary.
But the most important component of the PDS i.e. the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), under this system a food grains are to be provided to poor sections after identifying the poor section groups and delivering food grains at subsidized rate through fair price shops.
Leaving aside the situation of it in other state, the TPDS always has been suffering a major set back in Manipur. In short we can say that it has completely failed to serve its purpose. It has been proved in many instances and yet it continued to remain impaired with no measures in sight to rectify the dying system.
The original objective and terms of TPDS laid down in the dairy of the ministry concerned is contradictory in nature when compared to its functioning in the state.
Apparently the system is independent as the mode of implementation varies from one assembly constituency to other.
As laid down in the guidelines the identification of poor section like the BLP, APL families and subsequent issue of ration cards are almost not in practice. Allocations are done directly more like favourtism and nepotism basis and under the supervision of agents. These agents are near and dear ones or active workers of the elected representatives. Fair price shops are established just to curtain the operation and network of the ground reality.
The degree of distribution system again varies depending on the credibility of the representatives. Food grain, Rice, kerosene oil etc the most common commodities are often distributed more frequent in area where the representatives are more influential or powerful. On the opposite side, commodities are availed once in a while. Having said that The distributions of subsidized commodities under the TPDS however are not a common phenomenon in most of the places. Generally, most of the populace depends on the indiscriminate monopolized open market.
After being in hibernating state for several years, all the PDS commodities emerges at a certain period. It is in this stage everyone gets their share at right time, right price and more frequent than the normal days.
The most favourable time for such ‘philanthropic shows’, is likely to come into play when the election is round the corner.
Lately, a similar election strategy surfaces with the mushrooming of the so called self styled ‘social worker’. They are capable of putting up the so called ‘philanthropic shows’. Distribution of PDS commodities are the most common activities these ‘social worker’ has been taking up by and large.
The fact and circumstances can lead to one conclusion that PDS commodities are being used to the benefits of a sect, especially for those influential.
The Vigilance Division of FCI was responsible for conducting regular and surprise inspection of sensitive spots, reviewing and streamlining of procedures which appeared to afford scope for corruption or misconduct, initiating other measures for the prevention, detection and punishment of corruption and dealing with vigilance cases.
PDS is supplemental in nature and is not intended to make available the entire requirement of any of the commodities distributed under it to a household or a section of the society.
In June 1997, the Government of India launched the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) with focus on the poor. Under the TPDS, States are required to formulate and implement foolproof arrangements for identification of the poor for delivery of food grains and for its distribution in a transparent and accountable manner at the FPS level.
The scheme, when introduced, was intended to benefit about 6 crore poor families for whom a quantity of about 72 lakh tonnes of food grains was earmarked annually. The identification of the poor under the scheme is done by the States as per State-wise poverty estimates of the Planning Commission for 1993-94 based on the methodology of the “Expert Group on estimation of proportion and number of poor” chaired by Late Prof Lakdawala. The allocation of food grains to the States/UTs was made on the basis of average consumption in the past i.e. average annual off-take of food grains under the PDS during the past ten years at the time of introduction of TPDS.
The quantum of food grains in excess of the requirement of BPL families was provided to the State as ‘transitory allocation’ for which a quantum of 103 lakh tonnes of food grains was earmarked annually. Over and above the TPDS allocation, additional allocation to States was also given. The transitory allocation was intended for continuation of benefit of subsidized food grains to the population Above the Poverty Line (APL) as any sudden withdrawal of benefits existing under PDS from them was not considered desirable. The transitory allocation was issued at prices, which were subsidized but were higher than the prices for the BPL quota of food grains.
Keeping in view the consensus on increasing the allocation of food grains to BPL families, and to better target the food subsidy, Government of India increased the allocation to BPL families from 10 kg. to 20 kg of food grains per family per month at 50% of the economic cost and allocation to APL families at economic cost w.e.f. 1.4.2000. The allocation of APL families was retained at the same level as at the time of introduction of TPDS but the Central Issue Prices (CIP) for APL were fixed at 100% of economic cost from that date so that the entire consumer subsidy could be directed to the benefit of the BPL population. However, the CIPs fixed in July and December, 2000 for BPL & AAY respectively and in July, 2002 for APL, have not been revised since then even though procurement costs have gone up considerably.