Why is Strengthening the Public Distribution System important?
“Distribution is working when the public is getting, while the system is running.”
The public Distribution System (PDS) is known to us from every aspect but it is popular in food security. The chain of supply and demand of PDS has given immense benefit to India. The working model of PDS is evolving with an adaptation of technology and also as public needs are changing. PDS is a government-sponsored chain of shops entrusted with the work of distributing basic food and non-food commodities to the needy sections of the society at very cheap prices.
The distribution system in India has evolved since Independence and in the age of pandemic it is working efficiently for many sectors of the economy, I won't say all…! PDS in India has worked mostly in the Food Security sector. This system has improved over the period of time as a system of management of scarcity through the distribution of food and essential items in today’s world. It 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.
PDS is operated under the joint responsibility of the Central and the State Governments. It is a network whereby accessibility of vital supplies is guaranteed which can be easily accessed by the consumers in every part of the country with minimum cost to spend.
This is a transaction system where food grains, sugar, and other needed items such as kerosene and edible oil are made available to the people of the states at a fair price to meet their minimum needs. Regular and timely availability of supplies is assured through a close monitoring system to make PDS effective.
It is an instrument against various forces in the open market and to keep under check the inflator tendencies. Wheat, Rice, Sugar, Kerosene are the main supplements in PDS. India’s PDS is the largest food security program in the world, which covers nearly three-quarters of the population and costs Rs 1.45 trillion which is close to 1.4% of the national income.
Among the states, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, and Gujarat which among the most developing states of India have intensified reforms in PDS using the latest technology and ensuring community participation. They have taken steps such as computerization of offtake of grains, recording of acquisitions and total produce, storage and distribution, installation of electronic point of sale machines in fair price shops, and timely monitoring at every stage.
The digitization of beneficiaries’ databases and verification of their identities through Aadhaar has resulted in the scraping of over 23 million fake ration cards and savings of Rs 14,000 crore of annual food subsidy.
The success story of Odisha in India is one of the important and best working examples of PDS across the country. Odisha started working on the PDS program at the end of 2004. They took the help of self-help groups (SHGs) and gram panchayat to locate people who are in need and started linking them through the digitization process. They also took help from cooperatives, non-government organizations which also insured transparency in the process and involved the major participation to work efficiently and reduced the spending cost too.
The workability of PDS is very important as only setting up the system is not sufficient. The efficiency and prediction for the future are also important when we work in governance. The network of distribution which is implemented by Odisha in Food Security needs to be used in the whole of India.
Each state in India has invested in PDS and its success is very important to achieve the United Nations (UN) Food Security goals under Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which are in the primary stage according to world standards in India. Also, the development of PDS is helpful in accomplishing National Nutrition Mission (NNM), an initiative taken by the Indian Government.
The PDS in the health sector is also important and needs a working plan in a pandemic. The supply of oxygen cylinders, medicines, Vaccines, and many other needs should be given to patients. The food for patients’ relatives and their need must be taken into consideration. The new PDS needs to be formulated in the world for every type of public service and not just-food.
The living standards, health care, minimum-employment generation, education, and many more are in need; every public aspect of today’s world is in need of systematic distribution.
The sustainability of development needs a distribution chain to reach the needy and to work efficiently therefore PDS is the most efficient way and has more success rate and many others. In the case of a developing country, it is one of the most vital and vocal ways to work towards achieving the SDGs of the UN.