PDS comes to the rescue of poor during lockdown

Even in these unprecedented times around 80 crore poor people of the nation are getting their regular ration supplies through Public Distribution System, reports Shveta Mishra

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown, central and state governments are making sure that the poor should continue to get their regular ration supplies. Working in harmony, central and state governments have started distributing the rations among the 80 crore people covered under National food security Act, 2013 (NFSA) through Public Distribution System (PDS).

Keeping in mind the guidelines placed by the government to stop the spread of coronavirus, various states have adopted different methods to distribute the ration among the poor. Kerala government started the distribution of ration to poor through 14250 outlets. The Food and Civil ministry of Kerala said that food grain for Antyodaya Anna Yojana and priority household cardholders are being distributed. For Families that did not have cards could get foodgrain if an elder member of the family submitted an affidavit to the retailer concerned.

The affidavit should comprise the Aadhaar number and phone number of the family members. The facility had been limited strictly to those who did not have cards. A fine amounting to three times the market price of the foodgrain would be levied from those submitting false affidavits. To prevent crowding in front of the shops, the state government had devised card number system for distribution of ration. Volunteers will also help in home-delivery of foodgrains for the elderly and sick who are not able to reach the ration shops. Also only five persons would be allowed at a time in a ration outlet. The ministry confirmed that the State had sufficient stock to distribute foodgrain to all sections for three months.

In the national capital, Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government is likely to start door-to-door ration delivery services to a section of beneficiaries covered under NFSA. The food and supplies department is working on a plan to send dry ration like wheat, rice and sugar to senior citizens, widows, differently abled and vulnerable sections of society at their doorsteps. The Delhi government is distributing 1.5 times of the actual entitlement of the ration for the month of April free of cost to over 70 lakh beneficiaries.

According to the data available on the website of the Food and Supplies Department, 71,08,074 members of over 17 lakh families comes under Food Security Act. There are 2011 fair price shops in the national capital. The Delhi government has also asked around 10 lakh poor people who do not have ration card to apply online and on that basis the government will provide them with ration, the government is also planning to allow them access to the benefits through their Aadhaar cards. The AAP government is also planning to set up special centres for these new beneficiaries.

Uttar Pradesh government has distributed foodgrains to 1.94 crore ration card holders and to 35,843 beneficiaries of the Antyodaya scheme in the state through its PDS network. There are currently 3.33 crore ration card holders in the state and close to 71 lakh Antyodaya scheme beneficiaries. The ration card holders will continue to get wheat at two per kilogram and rice at three per kilogram. The Uttar Pradesh government, on April 1, also started distributing free ration to people who are registered with the labour department under MNREGA and the Antyodaya scheme. Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary, has asked all district officials to ensure that the social distancing is maintained as per the prescribed rules while distributing ration.

The Gujarat government has started free food-grain and ration distribution to Antyodaya families through 17,000 government-approved fair price grain shops across the state. The state government will provide free ration to laborers and poor families identified under National food security scheme. Around 3.25 Cr people from 66 Lac such families will be given free ration in the state.

The Tamil Nadu government is distributing free ration items to all rice card holders across the State. The state government is distributing 15 kilograms of rice, one kilograms each of sugar, oil and Dal. To avoid people crowding, a token based delivery system is being followed. The State government is also distributing the 1,000 cash aid to rice family cardholders at their doorsteps when the tokens are given to them to collect rations.

Meanwhile Maharashtra government said that the five kg of free rice promised by the Centre for ration card-holders will be distributed only after they buy their regular quota of grains at Fair Price Shops. Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said that “the Maharashtra government had already decided to distribute regular quota of food grains at ration shops for April, May and June in advance and stocking rice for distribution under the Centre’s package alongwith three months’ worth of foodgrains will be difficult for ration shops. Also more than two lakh ration card-holders in the state bought regular quota of food grains on April 1.”

In the state of Telangana, distribution of 12 kg rice per person among 87.54 lakh white ration card holders commenced on April 1. The rice is being distributed through 17000 ration shops. As per government guidelines for social distancing, the ration shop dealers have been instructed to draw markings at a distance of at least 3 feet at their shops and also make handwash or sanitisers available for customers. Similarly most of the states are in the process of distribution of the ration to the poor and daily wage earners through PDS.

Around 80 crore people covered under NFSA get their monthly rations through PDS. The eligible households are entitled to receive foodgrains, namely- Wheat, Rice & Coarse-grains. As per entitlements under the Act, the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households are eligible to receive 35 kg of foodgrains per family per month, whereas the Priority Households (PHH) beneficiaries are eligible to receive 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month. Distribution of subsidized sugar of 1 Kg per AAY family per month is also being provided under PDS. Over the years, PDS has become an important part of Government’s policy for management of food economy in the country. PDS is operated under the joint responsibility of the central and the state governments.

The central government, through Food Corporation of India (FCI), has assumed the responsibility for procurement, storage, transportation and bulk allocation of food grains to the state governments. The operational responsibility including allocation within State, identification of eligible families, issue of Ration Cards and supervision of the functioning of Fair Price Shops (FPSs) etc., rest with the state governments. Under the PDS, presently the commodities namely wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene are being allocated to the states for distribution. Some states also distribute additional items of mass consumption through the PDS outlets such as pulses, edible oils, iodized salt, spices, etc

To provide relief to these 80 crore beneficiaries, the government of India on March 26 decided to provide 5 kg of food grains per person and one kg of pulses per household for free for next three months under PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana. These beneficiaries will get the free ration over and above their monthly quota for next three months. Which means beneficiary would be entitled to get 12 kg of food grains per month for next three months. Five kg will be free under PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana while 7 kg will be available at subsidised rates over ration shops. FCI is ensuring uninterrupted supply of wheat and rice throughout the country.

According to FCI, it is fully prepared to meet not only the food grain requirement under National Food Security Act (NFSA) @5 KG/Month/Beneficiary but also any additional demand including supply of 5Kg/Person for next 3 months to 81.35 Crore people under PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana.

FCI confirmed that it is able to meet the increasing demand of food grains by gearing up the pace of supply of wheat and rice throughout the country mostly by Rail. FCI informed that a total of 69 Rakes are being loaded till 03.04.2020 carrying about 1.93 Lakh Metric Tonnes (LMT) food grain stock. Since the day of lockdown i.e. 24.03.2020 FCI has moved 477 rakes carrying an approximate quantity of 13.36 LMT from the states.

FCI also informed that it is conducting e-auctions under Open Market Sales Scheme (OMSS) for providing wheat to the empanelled roller flour mills and to the state governments to ease the supply constraint in the market. As per FCI, in the e-auction held on 31.03.2020, bids for 1.44 LMT wheat have been received.

FCI also said that in view of outbreak of COVID-19, apart from regular e-auction, district magistrates and collectors have been authorized to lift directly from FCI depots at OMSS reserve price to cater to the needs of roller flour mills and other wheat product manufactures.

FCI further said that e-auction for rice is also conducted. In the e-auction on 31.03.2020, bids for 77000 MT rice have been received from the state of Telangana, Tamil Nadu, J&K etc. In addition, considering the emergent situation, states have been allowed to take rice under OMSS @ 22.50/kg without participating in e-auction to meet any requirement over and above the NFSA allotment and additional allocation done under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana. So far, 94767 Metric Tonnes (MT) Rice has been allotted to the following 7 states as per their requests:

To minimize the issues of people living in rural areas, the state governments along with district machineries are working closely to ensure speedy delivery of the foodgrains from warehouses to PDS outlets of these areas. As Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that “the government would not allow anybody, especially any poor family, to suffer on account of non-availability of foodgrains due to disruption in the next three months. All 80 crore individuals, i.e, roughly two-thirds of India’s population would be covered under this scheme and each one of them would be provided double of their current entitlement over next three months free of cost.”

S.No State Rice Wheat Total
    No. of Rakes Quantity (in LMT) No. of Rakes Quantity (in LMT) No. of Rakes Quantity (in LMT)
1 Punjab 114 3.19 108 3.02 222 6.22
2 Haryana 34 0.95 59 1.65 93 2.60
3 Uttarakhand 6 0.17 0 0 6 0.17
4 Andhra Pradesh 15 0.42 0 0 15 0.42
5 Telengana 53 1.48 0 0 53 1.48
6 Madhya Pradesh 0 0 33 0.92 33 0.92
7 Chattisgarh 28 0.78 0 0 28 0.78
8 Odisha 27 0.76 0 0 27 0.76
  Total 277 7.76 200 5.60 477 13.36

Food grain distribution through Food Corporation of India


S.No State Rice Wheat Total
    No. of Rakes Quantity (in LMT) No. of Rakes Quantity (in LMT) No. of Rakes Quantity (in LMT)
1 Bihar 47.5 0.38 13.5 1.33 61 1.71
2 Jharkhand 6 0.71 25.5 0.17 31.5 0.88
3 Odisha 1 0 0 0.03 1 0.03
4 West Bengal 48 0.08 3 1.34 51 1.43
5 North East 2.75 0.93 33.25 0.08 36 1.01
6 J&K 0 0.08 3 0 3 0.08
7 Rajasthan 1 0 0 0.03 1 0.03
8 U.P. 49 0.31 11 1.37 60 1.68
9 Uttarakhand 2 0 0 0.06 2 0.06
10 Telangana 2 0 0 0.06 2 0.06
11 Karnataka 6 1.04 37 0.17 43 1.20
12 Kerala 5 0.56 20 0.14 25 0.70
13 Tamil Nadu 2 0.67 24 0.06 26 0.73
14 Gujarat 13 0.48 17 0.36 30 0.84
15 Maharashtra 8 0.50 18 0.22 26 0.73
  Total 193.3 5.75 205.3 5.41 398.5 11.16

The State wise details of the induction of food grains done during the period of lockdown