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The Food Public Distribution System (PDS) evolved as a system for distribution of food grains at affordable prices and management of emergency situations. Over the years, the term PDS has become synonymous with the term ‘food security’ and also an important part of Government’s policy for management of food economy in the country. In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India case, Supreme Court contended that the “Right to Food” is essential to the Right to Life as provided in Article 21 of the Constitution. It has resulted in Parliament passing the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013. The NFSA seeks to make the right to food a legal entitlement by providing subsidized food grains to almost two-thirds of the population. It relies on the existing Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) mechanism to deliver these entitlements. PDS ensures that Food grains are available to the poor, at prices lower than the price of food grains at private shops and are directly purchased from farmers, assuring farmers with a greater price.

The Food and Public Distribution Ministry is headed by a Cabinet rank Minister and assisted by a Minister of State. The Department of Food and Public Distribution is one of the two Departments under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution. It is established to ensure Food Security for citizens of the country and proposed a vision to ensure Food Security for the citizens of the country and set out for a Mission to establish Efficient procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP), storage and distribution of food grains ensuring availability of food grains and sugar through appropriate policy instrument; including maintenance of buffer stocks of food grains and making food grains accessible at reasonable prices, especially to the weak errand vulnerable sections of the society under PDS.

OBJECTIVE: The Ministry has established the following objectives:

  • To implement the national food security Act, 2013, throughout the country.
  • To undertake price support operations through efficient procurement of wheat, paddy/rice and coarse gains.
  • To Strength the Targeted Public Distributions Systems.
  • Development/Promotion of Sugar Industry.
  • Development of the Warehousing Sector.
  • Improvement in Public Service System.

As per Allocation of Business Rules the Ministry discharges the following functions:

  • Participation in international Conferences, Associations and other bodies concerning food, i.e. International Wheat Council, World Food Council, International Food Policy Research Institute, Commission/Committees on Food Security and implementation of decisions made thereat.
  • Entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementing treaties, agreements, and conventions with foreign countries relating to trade and commerce in foodgrains and other foodstuffs.
  • Hiring and acquisition of godowns for storage of foodgrains including sugar, taking on lease or acquiring land for construction of godowns for foodgrains.
  • Matters relating to the Food Corporation of India and the Central Warehousing Corporation.
  • Purchase of foodstuffs for civil requirements and their disposal and also for military requirements of sugar, rice and wheat.
  • Inter-State trade and commerce in respect of foodgrains and other foodstuffs including sugar.
  • Trade and commerce in, and supply and distribution of, foodgrains.
  • Trade and commerce in, and the production, supply and distribution of sugar and foodstuffs other than foodgrains.
  • Price control of sugar, foodgrains and foodstuffs and management of Public Distribution System.
  • The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (10 of 1955) and the Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 (7 of 1980), in so far as foodgrains are concerned.
  • Industries relating to Vanaspati, Oil seeds, Vegetable oils, Cakes, Fats and Sugar (including development of sugar khandsari).
  • Price Control of and inter-state trade and commerce in and supply and distribution of Vanaspati, Oilseeds, Vegetable Oils, Cakes and Fats
  • Directorate of Vanaspati, Vegetable Oils and Fats.
  • Directorate of Sugar, New Delhi.
  • National Sugar Institute, Kanpur.
  • National Institute of Sugar and Sugarcane Technology, Mau.
  • Matters relating to the Development Council of Sugar Industry, New Delhi.
  • International Sugar Council.
  • Sugar Development Fund.
  • Molasses & Alcohol – industrial and potable from the molasses route
  • Stand-alone Distilleries.

SECTORS: Import & Export, Sugar (Policy, Scheme, Sugar Development Fund, SPF, Sugar Administration and Directorate of Sugar & Vegetable Oils), Food Grains (Procurement, Storage, Public Distribution and Quality Control), Vegetable Oil (Policy, Attached Office and Rules)

DIVISIONS: Policy & Food Corporation of India, IMPEX & IC, Sugar & Administration, Storage & Public Grievances Cell, Basic Plan & Public Distribution, National Food Security Act & Niti Aayog Cell(NAC), Finance, Budget & Accounts and Procurement Incidentals.

ORGANISATIONS: Public Sector Enterprises – Food Corporation of India(FCI), Central Warehousing Corporation(CWC),  Central Railside Warehouse Company Limited(CRWC) & Hindustan Vegetable Oils Corporation Ltd (HVOC)

REGULATORY BODY: Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority

SUBORDINATE OFFICES: National Sugar Institute (NSI), Kanpur, Quality Control Cells (OCC) and Indian Grain Storage Management and Research Institute (IGMRI). Directorate of Sugar and Vegetable Oil is the attached office of the Ministry

Acts, Rules, Orders and Notifications covering the Ministry are available in the public domain.

PUBLICATIONS: E-Pamphlet, E-Book, Annual Reports (2019-20), Monthly Summary(July 2020), Food Grain Bulletin(August 2020) and Khadya Suraksha(Edition 4) are all hosted in the portal.

CIRCULARS: E-Governance initiatives(ICT), Sugar Administrating, Administrative, Procurement, National Food Security Act (NFSA), Storage, Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Quality Control, Public Distribution and Reforms.

CHALLENGES BEFORE THE MINISTRY OF FOOD AND PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION

  • PROCUREMENT: Due to Open-ended Procurement all incoming grains accepted even if buffer stock is filled creating a shortage in the open market. The recent implementation of Nation food security act would only increase the quantum of procurement resulting in higher prices for grains. The gap between required and existing storage capacity needs efficiency and efficacy in management with utmost precision.
  • STORAGE CONSTRAINTS: Inadequacy in the storage capacity with Food Corporation of India which results in Food grains rotting or damaging Cover & Plinth storage.
  • DISCREPANCIES IN THE ALLOCATION OF FOOD GRAINS: Lack of proper system to manage and identify the correct of beneficiaries of the Government schemes under PDS.
  • FAIR PRICE SHOPS:  Growth of Illicit shops that facilitated creation of a large number of bogus cards or ghost cards(cards for non-existent people) to sell food grains.
  • TRANSPORTATION ISSUES: Leakage and illegal diversion of food grains during transportation which has growing unchecked for ages resulting in the shortage of distribution for the beneficiaries.

WAY FORWARD

Through many governments have always claimed to have achieved significant milestones in the PDS reforms, the Public Distribution System is devoid of innovations over the last several decades as we still find the beneficiaries lining up before the Fair Price shops to buy essential food commodities which is often suffers from quality issues. This could be well plugged if Government arranges to supply the packed stuff at the doorsteps of the beneficiaries at periodical intervals. As part of the implementation of NFSA, it is reported that over 42 % cards are linked with Point of sale devices which have been installed in over 77000 ration shops but 100% digitization of cards would only address to core issues. The overall inefficiency in the PDS system should be removed to ensure the food security millions of people in our country. Usage of technology to monitor safety, security, storage and transportation of essential commodities should be mandatorily adopted under e-governance. It’s time to identity all the priority areas to address the challenges related to lack of infrastructure, design of device hardware to manage safety, storage and transportation elimination and intervention of human errors, transparency in the stock position, scientific criteria in fixation of Minimum Support Price so that no farmer is affected to incurs losses on account of production of essential food commodities besides elimination of all illegal hoarding and beneficiaries of Public Distribution System.


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