By Aamir Manan Deva
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) is a scheme announced by Government of India and also part of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan scheme which aims to supply free food grains to poor and migrants. The scheme aims to provide food and nutrition security to the poorest citizens of India by providing grain through the Public Distribution System (Fair Price Shops), to all the priority households including all ration card holders and those identified under Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Priority Household (AAY and PHH). The scheme was initially launched on 26 March 2020 with an announcement of Nationwide Lockdown for 3 months (May, June and July) in the beginning by the Prime Minister who also announced that the program (scheme) is part of the existing Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) welfare initiative in his first address to the nation. Government announced that 80 crore beneficiaries will be getting 5kg wheat or rice and 1kg of preferred pulses during the course of the scheme. Initially, the scheme was launched for the period from April-June 2020, with a cost of 1.70 lakh crore but eventually it was bifurcated in four phases; first phase was implemented from April 2020-June 2020, second from July-November 2020, third was implemented in May-June 2021 during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to minimise the economic hardships faced by the poor PDS beneficiaries and fourth phase is being implemented between July to November 2021.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana is aimed at providing additional 5kg food grains per month to beneficiaries covered under National Food Security Act (NFSA) and this allocation will be over and above NFSA food grains, 305 LMT (104 LMT wheat and 201 LMT rice) food grains were successfully supplied by Food Corporation of India to the respective States and Union Territory during PMGKAY-I (April-June 2020) and PMGKAY-II (July-November 2020). In the recent Phase-III (May-June 2021), 80 LMT food grains had been supplied to the State and Union Territory. Under PMGKAY IV (July-November 2021) lifting of food grains has already commenced in all States and some Union Territory. Jammu & Kashmir being one of the top performers of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) with distributing 100% ration among beneficiaries during last year the scenario of distribution of commodities (Rice and Wheat) in Jammu & Kashmir during Phase III (May-June 2021) of the scheme was 33129 MT, Rice being the staple food of the place has been distributed around 26,268 MT among the beneficiaries, But there have been cases where the poorest of the poor in some remote villages were denied free ration on immoral grounds.
The J&K Government is taking huge strides in ensuring food security for the residents of the UT through timely availability, efficient Supply Chain Management and streamlining distribution of food grains, besides moving towards 100% Aadhaar seeding of the beneficiaries under various schemes. As per the data provided, It was observed that the J&K government is reaching out to One Crore people with ration through a network of 6738 ration shops covering 25.73 Lakh ration card holders including both NFSA & Non-NFSA beneficiaries. Moreover, the department operates the distribution process through an online public distribution system. Emphasizing on streamlining the distribution chain, besides rationalizing the availability of quality food grains at subsidized and affordable prices, the authorities directed the concerned officials to bring reformations at the policy planning level to make the system more robust. Government of India has announced the scheme with the aim that it would not allow any beneficiary to suffer on account of non-availability of sufficient food grains due to disruptions from COVID-19.
One Nation, One Ration Card, being a part of the Prime Minister’s Technology Driven System Reformation under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, has empowered the poor and the needy. It is one of the game changing initiatives giving flexibility and seamless access to PDS and delivery of food-security entitlements to all beneficiaries, anywhere in the country. “A perfect example of integrating technology with the government process and putting it to optimum use for benefit of poor”. Stress has been put on ensuring seamless availability of food grains to the consumers, while identifying priority assessments including moving maximum e-POS machines to online mode, introduction of Nomination Policy to cover deprived claimants, coverage of vulnerable groups, streamlining distribution of Kerosene oil, tracking of Supply Chain Management, formulation of NFSA Rules, Aadhaar seeding of Non-NFSA etc. Increase in the enforcement activities of Legal Metrology Department, besides keeping a strict vigil on black-marketing and illegal profiteering,
4 Key Components have been identified viz Creation & management of digitized beneficiary database. Supply-chain management of TPDS commodities from Food Corporation of India (FCI) till Fair Price Shops (FPS), Sale of TPDS commodities at Fair Price Shops including identification and authentication of beneficiaries and recording of transactions, through e-POS (electronic Point of Sale), Transparency and grievance redressal mechanism.
Possible and Sustainable Reformations:
There is a dire need to move into an innovative door delivery mode and can be replicated from successful models across the country. Commodities must be of good quality for distribution at the doorsteps of the cardholders. The move can give huge sigh of relief, particularly to elderly people and differently abled.
Mobile dispensing units (MDU) can be deployed for the distribution of essential commodities under PDS. Procurement of vehicles can be done through a proper transparent competitive bidding system after clearance of necessary formalities. A Proper policy plan is needed for transparent allocation of these Mobile Dispensing vehicles at subsidized rates to local and un-employed youth, which in a way can generate entrepreneurship skills along with improvement in socio-economic status. Usage of Technological interventions enable Mobile dispensing units to tap all the existing ration cards under NFSA with GIS system synchronized with the MDU’s to enable transparent delivery. A system can be developed in such a way that cardholders could also track the movement of MDU through a mobile app and plan their daily routine work. The door delivery system will also down curtains on the corrupt practices prevailing in the distribution. The sealing of each bag must be packed with tamper proof seal and opened right in front of the end consumer/beneficiary. Electronic weighing machines are essential to be set up in all the MDU’s to facilitate the volunteers to dispense the stock only after weighing them right in front of the cardholders. In any case if Cardholder fails to collect the ration at his house due to emergency, Village level Vigilance committees can play a pivotal role in service delivery up to the village/ward office and collect the ration from MDU every day for particular time. The role of Village level Vigilance committees also play major role in the implementation of the welfare schemes in state. Social auditing of commodities distribution in presence of public can also prevent corupts practices.
The recommendations mentioned are based on the adopted and viable best practices enacted and implemented in several states of the country;
Initiatives should be taken to strengthen the awareness among people regarding their rights and provisions under schemes designed for implementation of the National Food Security Act (2013); Proper training and capacity building sessions should be initiated on grassroots level for making people aware about different available facilities and information regarding different schemes.
Adoption and Promotion of techniques like door delivery wherein fine quality of commodities can be distributed at the door step of the beneficiary, especially for differently abled and elderly beneficiaries.
Government of India should initiate distribution of various commodities in a package, which should be packed with tamper proof seal and opened right in front of the end consumer.
It has been observed that many of the true beneficiaries have been suffering due to large-scale pilferage and diversion, retail level issues including duplicates and ghost beneficiaries. Monitoring of the scheme has become a difficult task for effective implementation, the main reason due to insufficient staff and its complicity. Adoption of Online Authentication Services provided by UIDAI (fingerprints, iris and photo for face recognition) can be used for the sale of PDS commodities to BPL beneficiaries in all Fair Price Shops (FPS). Which will improve efficiency and transparency in the system and enable on time ration delivery to eligible beneficiaries. The system will enable monitoring the sale and stock availability at every FPS. There should be adoption of technical expertise, wherein E-POS and biometric machines be maintained and calibrated on a weekly basis so that beneficiaries can get easy access to ration without any technical complexity.
The author is an Aspiring Food Technologist/Writer and Opinions expressed in this article are based on review of scientific research carried by Scholars, Organizations and has nothing to do with the organization he works for
Aamir Manan Deva1, Public Policy Advisor- (SSD) Food and Consumer Affairs,Government of Madhya Pradesh, AIGGPA, Bhopal.
Arpita Khare 2 Research Associate,AIGGPA, Bhopal.