Posts Tagged ‘PDS’

Hindutva states issued ‘ghost’cards for Public Distribution System

December 22, 2007

Rot in PDS: Over 2 cr ghost cards

NEW DELHI: It has been one of India’s worst kept secrets. But now, a recent study has put the number of “ghost” public distribution system cards at a staggering 2.3 crore and, what is even more damning, revealed that as many as 1.21 crore “deserving” poor have been left out of the food security umbrella.

So, the PDS or the “ration card” scam is actually a massive double whammy. Not only do a huge number of fake cards point to diversion of the PDS subsidized foodgrain, but the leaking system is bypassing those who are in dire need of state support. While the government is importing foodgrain to maintain buffer stocks, the delivery system is falling wide off the mark.

The study, conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), has provided evidence to confirm what senior ministers like P Chidambaram and Sharad Pawar have been claiming — that foodgrain is being diverted to the black market and may even be smuggled into Bangladesh.

A back of the envelope calculation shows the economic dimensions of the PDS fiddle. If the entitlement to 35kg of foodgrain, comprising wheat and rice, for every family under PDS is taken into account, the ghost cards can represent a potential diversion of 966 crore tonnes of foodgrain each year.

There is a very real fallout of the ghost cards despite the NCAER report, even in the face of its own findings, claiming the system is working “quite satisfactorily”. The finance minister, for one, certainly does not agree. On Wednesday, Chidambaram told the National Development Council that PDS “could become an albatross around our neck and an opportunity for rent seekers to enrich themselves… about 58% of subsidised grain does not reach the target group, of which a little over 36% is siphoned off the supply chain”.

Various other reports, commissioned by the Supreme Court and government, seem to have been validated by the recent NCAER data. The study looks to make things a little less bleak by not accounting for the ghost cards when calculating the extent of diversion. But the 2.3 crore figure cannot be wished away. Uttar Pradesh has issued 1.11 crore more cards than it should have, NCAER feels. Rajasthan has an excess 24 lakh cards and Gujarat and Haryana have more than 10 lakh ghost cards each. A ghost card can be used either by an undeserving beneficiary to buy cheap grain or just be diverted. In either case, the purpose of PDS to provide nutritional security to the poor is defeated.

The report found that the rich had been given the lowest income group ration cards — AAY cards — in 70% of the cases in the Northeast and in 30-35% of the cases in other states.

Even people who got their PDS supply of wheat and rice did not pay the stipulated price. In the six states that NCAER surveyed, not once in the six months of the study’s duration did people purchase grain at the fixed rate. In Rajasthan, the people paid at times 35% more than the prescribed rate for wheat, the staple diet in the state.

This is a sign of not only rampant corruption but also puts the cheap foodgrain out of reach of those who need it as some people complained that they couldn’t afford the rations even at subsidized rates. The “premium” introduced by unscrupulous Fair Price Shop owners is bound to make the really poor more vulnerable.

Of the six states surveyed, the study found Bihar to be worst off. Almost 90% households in case of rice and 70% in case of wheat complained of impurity, insect-infested supply and broken grain.

22 Dec 2007, Nitin Sethi,TNN

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