Public Distribution System is one of the most important programs run by the government to ensure food security in India. Till 1992, public distribution system applied universally to the entire population of India. All the people holding ration cards could buy food from the ration shops at uniform subsidized rates. In 1992, a revamped public distribution system was introduced in 1700 backward blocks in the country.
In 1997, the targeted public distribution system was introduced to extend the PDS benefits to the poor in all areas of the country. In the year 2000, two special schemes called the Antyodaya Ann Yojana and the Annapurna Scheme were introduced through the public distributions system.
The Antyodaya Ann Yojana was aimed at the poorest of the poor and The Annapurna Scheme was aimed at needy senior citizens.
The positive features of public distribution system are:
- Public distribution system has helped in keeping food prices stable by providing food to people at subsidized rates.
- Public distribution system has prevented large scale hunger and famine by supplying food from surplus regions to the deficit ones.
- Efforts have been made to extend benefits of public distribution system to the poorest of the poor.
- Procurement of food grains at attractive minimum support prices has provided assured income to farmers and boosted food grain production.
- Procurement of food grains by the Food Corporation of India to create a buffer stock is an essential requirement for public distribution system.
The negative features of public distribution system are:
- Maintaining such large stocks is expensive and wasteful due to rotting and deterioration of food grains in storage houses.
- Procurement of wheat and rice at enhanced minimum support prices has diverted farmers from growing other food grains like jowar and bajra.
- Increasing cultivation of water intensive crops like rice is leading to over exploitation of limited water resources in many areas.
- Frequent complaints against PDS dealers like diversion of good quality grain to open market selling poor quality grain and keeping irregular shop timings.
- Unsold stocks left with PDS dealers.
- Till 1997 all families with ration cards could buy a fixed quota of food grains and sugar from ration shops at uniform subsidized rates.
- Now people with above poverty line ration cards get very little subsidy on prices and thus, have little incentive to buy from ration shops.
- The unequal effectiveness of PDS in different states.