That foodgrain stocks lie in public godowns while people are going hungry is a scandal -Dipa Sinha
-The Indian Express
What is disturbing is that in the middle of the current crisis some are now calling for a massive downsizing of the PDS and a shift to cash transfers in place of foodgrains.
The Public Distribution System has played an important role in providing relief to people in the aftermath of the national lockdown. With COVID-19 cases increasing and the economy continuing to be in a downturn, some corrective measures need to be put in place to ensure that there are no exclusions and that this basic support of subsidised foodgrains reaches everybody preventing large-scale hunger and starvation. Despite gaps, the PDS is one of the most effective instruments to reach people in the current situation. The COVID-19 survey conducted by the Azim Premji University found that during the lockdown, 89 per cent of rural and 69 per cent of urban respondents reported that they were able to get foodgrains from a government ration shop compared to only 30 per cent of households saying that they received the Jan Dhan transfer.
Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), about 60 per cent of the current population has priority ration cards while some states such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have additional coverage which they support through their own budgets. Providing an additional 5 kg of foodgrains and 1 kg of pulses for free under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) was only for the 81 crore individuals who are currently covered by the NFSA, and later as part of the Atmanirbhar package, another 8 crore migrants have been included. However, there are still many who are left out of the food security net. Just to fulfil the NFSA requirement of 67 per cent, the updated population estimates of 2020 must be used in place of the current 2011 numbers. Moreover, in the present crisis where many have lost their livelihoods, the requirement would be much more. Unfortunately, the government has not made the PDS universal. There is no announcement of extending the relief measures from July onwards, ignoring the continuing despair in rural and urban areas.
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The Indian Express, 26 June, 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-coronavirus-lockdown-food-stock-supply-pds-scheme-6476514/