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PDS – Public Distribution System in India

The Public Distribution System (PDS) of India represents the direct interference by the Government of India in the food market. It involves the subsidized distribution of limited quantities of essential food products like wheat, cereal, sugar, salt, pulses and edible oils etc. The department of Food and Public Distribution System is responsible for the management of the food supply in the country.

The PDS of India was established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and these are managed jointly by the State and the Central Governments of India. The Public Distribution System of India was launched in India in June 1947.

The introduction of Public Distribution System is meant to manage the food system of the country. This scheme provides staple food grains such as wheat, dal, sugar, salt, kerosene etc through a network of public distribution shops in the whole country.  The main objective of this scheme is to provide food to the weaker section of the society.

Aim of the Public Distribution System

The main motive of the Public Distribution System in India is to provide essential consumer goods at a reasonable price. The PDS in India covers the whole population as no means of direct targeting is required. The PDS distributes the commodities more than Rs 30,000 Crore annually to about 160 million families. The main agency that is behind this huge food management scheme is Food Corporation of India. The Food Corporation of India was started in the year 1965. The core task of the corporation is to commence on the purchase, storage, movement, transport and distribution and sale of the food grains and other food stuffs to the country.

Use of Ration Card in PDS

The Ration Cards are the official documents that designate a holder to a ration of Food, fuel or other Goods that is issued by the Government of India. The Ration Cards are primarily used for purchasing food items and other essential household products such as rice, pulses, kerosene, edible oils etc. The cards were in use since World War II and are in still in use during the 21st century. This is a very important tool introduced for the poor. Providing them the proof of identity and connection with the databases of the Government. The India’s Public Distribution System is based on the Ration Card which uses to establish identity, eligibility, and entitlement.

The ration comes in two forms – in an A4 size folded the paper and the other form comes in a plastic card embedded in an integrated circuit. Both the versions of the Ration Card has the photograph of the head of the family. One card is issued per family. These cards are issued categorizing- extremely poverty level (Antodya), Below Poverty Line (BPL), and Above Poverty Line (APL).

The Ration Cards are voluntary in India. They are needed to obtain subsidized food and fuel. To get an APL or BPL in Delhi then they have to submit two copies of the photograph of the head of the family, proof of identity and address and an application fee of Rs 25 along with the old ration card. The time period for the processing is one month.

Flaws in The Food Security System (PDS)

The PDS systems have quite a lot of problems and are often criticised for its performance towards the public benefits. There are millions of ineligible and fraudulent ration cards and at the same time, the poor families have no ration card. The PDS shop owners get involved in the scams along with the Government officials and divert the subsidized food supply and kerosene to the black market.

Limited Benefit to Poor Through PDS

The people staying in the rural region have a limited supply of the PDS benefits. It is because the PDS is more dependent on the open market and is much higher than on the PDS for most of the commodities. “The cost-effectiveness of reaching the poorest 20 percent of households through PDS cereals is more”.

Issue of Urban Bias

The Urban places have more reach to the PDS benefits and facilities than rural places. The economists have found that there is an insufficient coverage in the poor cities and villages.

PDS Results in Price Increment

The economists say that the operation of PDS has resulted in an increase in price all over the country. This is because of the large procurement of the food grains produced every year by the Government has reduced the net quantities available in the open market.

Leakages from PDS

Another major issue is the problem of leakages from the losses of transportation and storage and diversion to the open market. This issue rises due to the diversion of food grains to the open market of the widespread of the corrupt practices.

Steps to Resolve These Issues

The government has taken certain measures to improve the food security system (PDS) and prevent it from corruption, leakage, and diversion in PDS rations.

Aadhaar Enabled Beneficiary

The bank accounts and the ration cards are linked to the Aadhaar card and the Government has made it mandatory. This procedure will help to differentiate and identify the genuine person and eligible beneficiaries and prevent from the ineligible and duplicate person from registering.

Aadhaar Enabled Direct Benefit Transfer

The Aadhaar- enabled service delivery helps to prevent from corruption in retail by directly crediting the benefit money in the beneficiary’s account. This technique is called as Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). This removes the fraud and ineligible beneficiaries. Various financial and other services have been Aadhaar enabled. By 1st of January 2014, about more than a half of India’s population are covered by the Direct Benefit Transfer for subsidized LPG.

Aadhaar Enabled in Eligibility Check

The Aadhaar applicant enabled eligibility is checked by comparing the service delivery database with another database. Like for an example: PDS Kerosene eligibility is checked by comparing the PDS Database with the LPG Database. The subsidy of the Kersone allocation will be reduced if the subsidy is detected for that household.

Introduction To E-Ration Card Services

With the help of e-Ration service, one can obtain the ration cards and check their food grain availability online, and check their costs. This will help to end corrupt practices and help to provide cards to those who are in need. The Department of Food Supplies and Consumer Affairs website provides the eligibility details and the food security plan. The service was first introduced in Delhi and was later followed by the State of Government of Tamil Nadu.


It is the fundamental obligation that the Government has provided every individual to lead a happy and secure and healthy life. The Government needs to develop a dynamic agriculture sector keeping in mind that the Public Distribution System can cover the needs of the growing population making it more convenient and more public oriented so as to achieve the main target of eradicating the corruption and other black marketing issues regarding the Food Security system.

Find here about the India’s First Smart Ration Cards implemented by the Tamilnadu Public Distribution System TNPDS.

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