Public Distribution System Plays an Increasing Role in Household Food Consumption
Guest Blogger: P. K. Ghosh, Associate Fellow, NCAER

     Even before the full implementation of the National Food Security Act, the Public Distribution System (PDS) has begun to play an increasingly large role in supplying household cereal needs. PDS emerged in its modern form in 1960s following increased availability of grains via US Government’s foreign assistance program known as PL-480 and was expanded to handle distribution of grains acquired through the price support mechanism set up the Goveernment of India. These grains are distributed through a network of fair price shops. In 1997 this system became a targeted system designed to provide subsidised food poor households.


     TPDS operates through allocation of ration cards to households in which households either classified as being Above Poverty Line (APL) and expected to pay economic costs of food grains or Below Poverty Line (BPL) or the poorest of the poor, Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) card holders are provided subsidized food grains. While this is a centrally sponsored scheme, it is administered by state governments, which are free to add other items to the list and to reduce prices or to increase quantities. Typically, most states provide at least wheat and rice in PDS shops in addition to sugar and kerosene. 


      Here we present statistics on purchase from PDS shops – defined here as off-take – for rice, wheat and other cereals. In 2004-05, 27 per cent of any cardholder households reported purchase of grains from the PDS. In 2011-12, the number has increased to 52 per cent (Figure 1). The increase was remarkable among the BPL/Antodaya cardholders (33 percentage points) and even for the APL cardholders. While the access of PDS is more among schedule caste and schedule tribe population, the increase is more or less same across socio religious groups as surprisingly observed among all income categories (Table 1).  Access to the PDS in mostly rice consuming states has improved considerably-by 30-50 percentage points between 2004-05 and 2011-12. In the states of Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Orissa, about 70 per cent of the households purchased rice from PDS. The other rice consuming states with 50-60 per cent of the households reporting purchase of grains from the PDS were Jammu & Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Assam.


Figure 1: Perecent Households Purchsing any Cereals from PDS by type of Card in 2004-5 and 2011-12

 

Source: IHDS I & II


Table 1: Percent Households purchasing cereals from PDS by type of card and Background Characteristics

Population Groups

BPL/AAY

APL

All PDS card holders

2004-05

2011-12

2004-05

2011-12

2004-05

2011-12

Rural/Urban

Rural

57.5

90.7

14.3

30.2

30.7

55.9

Urban

54.3

88.1

9.8

34.2

17.8

45.1

Social Groups

High caste

49.4

87.0

6.9

26.3

14.6

38.5

OBC

60.3

90.9

16.9

32.9

30.6

54.3

Dalit

59.2

91.6

14.8

33.9

33.9

61.3

Adivasi

56.6

89.3

20.3

38.1

37.1

60.4

Muslim

47.0

88.6

9.8

34.1

19.9

49.5

Christian, Sikh, Jain

55.9

82.2

11.0

42.1

18.9

46.1

Income Quintile (Per Capita)

Poorest quintile

57.2

90.6

15.8

24.8

32.1

57.2

2nd quintile

57.6

90.4

13.7

30.0

32.5

56.8

Middle quintile

60.3

91.7

15.3

33.3

32.3

57.0

4th quintile

57.8

91.0

13.5

36.5

25.9

54.9

Richest quintile

43.7

83.7

8.2

30.9

12.3

38.2


Source: Calculated from IHDS I and II


     In the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala and the northern states of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, PDS coverage was greater than the targeted population. In Chhattisgarh and Odisha, where the PDS is “reviving”, 61% and 70% of the population was covered by it. The states that really lag behind in PDS coverage are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Bihar, which has a large number of the country’s poor. The food-surplus states of Punjab (23%) and Haryana (18%) also report low levels of PDS coverage.

 

[Based on IHDS-I and preliminary IHDS-II data. Views are personal.]

© Sonalde Desai 2012