PDS is an instrument to alleviate poverty and ensuring nutritional security. Critically evaluate.

Food security in India is ensured by a network of fair-price shops set across the country under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, which provides cereals and other items to 50% of the urban and 75% of the rural population at a subsidized price.

PDS as a poverty alleviation tool:

  • PDS was started in the 1950s on a universal basis and was revamped in 1970. Targetted PDS started in 1997.
  • Under targetted PDS, there are three categories
    • BPL – 50% cost is borne by FCI.
    • Antyodaya households – provide cereals at a cost of Rs. 2 per kg for wheat and Rs. 3 per kg for rice.
    • APL – at a full economic cost.
  • Some states like Tamilnadu follow a universal PDS scheme.
  • Some states also provide non-food items, along with food items through fair-price shops.

PDS for ensuring nutritional security:

  • Pulses provided through FPS are an excellent source of protein for vegetarians.
  • Regional and local cereals are also provided by a few states.
  • Distribution of fortified cereals has been taken up on a pilot project basis in some states.
  • It has proved to be a game-changer for improving maternal health.

PDS has been successful in achieving its objectives, however, it still suffers from various challenges:

  • The performance of India on the Global Hunger Index has been poor.
  • There is excessive focus on wheat & rice, rather than other nutritional crops like millets and pulses.
  • Ghost ration cards.

Integrated management of PDS as suggested by Parth Mukhopadhyay committee and rollout of one nation one ration card is an excellent step in the right direction.

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