Reducing Corruption in India’s Public Distribution System

Reducing Corruption in India’s Public Distribution System

YEARS: 2009-2010
THEME: Public Food Distribution

Public Distribution System (PDS) is a one of the major and widespread poverty alleviation programs in India that contributes towards the social welfare of the people.  Essential commodities like rice, wheat, sugar, and kerosene are supposed to be supplied to the people under the PDS at reasonable prices.  PDS was proposed to be a boon to the people living below the poverty line.  It is not possible to neglect the PDS in India, because majority of the migrant population are living in urban slum areas and their standard of living is also poor and they cannot afford to pay the prevailing market prices for the essential commodities.  Central Government has provided Rs. 21,200 crores in 2002-03 in its annual budget. The huge network can play a more meaningful role if only the system is able to translate into micro level and macro level self-sufficiency by ensuring availability of food grains for the poor households. A detailed study done in UP and published in March 2000 found that multiplicities of agencies, poor coordination and low administrative accountability have combined to cripple the delivery machinery. In the same year a study by Tata Economic Consultancy Service found that a large amount of PDS supplies were diverted from the system.

There are examples of successive citizen participation initiatives in the system. The initiated pilot project “Addressing Corruption in public distribution system by citizen’s groups” will be unique in the sense that it will try to get this initiative in an urban setting for the first time. The citizens groups will be permanent rights based groups which will not limit their activity to monitoring the distribution of the commodities in the FPS outlets, but look beyond that as the watchdogs of citizen’s rights and one of them being the right to access to quality service from the PDS.

The objective for this pilot project was to identify and promote 30 citizen’s groups to monitor effective provision of service of 30 FPS outlets in Bangalore, to increase awareness among consumer and public on the issue of corruption in PDS system and to set a model in citizen participation in PDS distribution which reduces opportunities for corruption with the goal of making 30 PDS outlets [Fair Price Shops] function Corruption Free in Bengaluru city by ensuring quality provisions in time to all the eligible poor living in the slums of Bengaluru city.

The pilot project was successfully completed by increasing awareness between consumer and public on the issue of corruption in PDS system through handbills, street play and news media at Bengaluru city level. It effected and motivated consumers to come forward and initiate citizen’s groups to address corruption at fair price shop level in the name of PDSMC [Public distribution system monitoring committee]. With all the resistance by the department of food and civil supplies and owners, the 30 PDSMCs formed and built their capacities to address the issue of corruption at fair price shop level with the support of consumers, community and public. We did a baseline survey of 100 fair price shops to identify the levels of corruptions and used RTI to get more authentic information to advocate with the government officials. The 30 PDSMCs promoted their apex body to advocate with the government department and network with other food right groups at state and national level to address the policy issue. We succeeded in declaring 3 Fair price Shop as model PDS outlets and preparing 27 FPS for the declaration of Model PDS outlets in one year time frame.  The pilot project created a huge space for learning on process, constructive engagement with community, government and other stakeholders. It was also an initiator to mobilize community and general public on reducing corruption in public distribution system. It was a small and effective experiment and we have to take this to next step to reach out more eligible groups and people.

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