Empowerment Transparency Innovation
Gujarat Revolutionizes the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
Shri Raj Kumar, IAS
Secretary, Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department,
Government of Gujarat
Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) is one of the largest food security programmes in India which has been in operation since several decades. While the Government of India (GoI) provides the required quantities of food grain at subsidised rates, it is the responsibility of the state governments to ensure that it reaches the poor. Time and again, it has been established through surveys and studies that the existing PDS implementation suffers from considerable diversion and leakages of subsidised food grains at the cost of food security.
Under TPDS, each family is entitled to a ration card which, depending upon the Above Poverty Line (APL) and Below Poverty Line (BPL) categories is also an instrument of entitlement. Disbursal of food and non-food items such as wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene takes place through a network of a large number of Fair Price Shops (FPS) across the length and width of the State, each serving a section of the population in a given area. The Government of Gujarat (GoG) procures these items through the Food Corporation of India or the Oil Marketing Companies (OMC) and arranges for their distribution to the FPS dealers through its intermediate logistics organization i.e. the Gujarat State Civil Supply Corporation.
In the absence of a fool proof identity mechanism, bogus or duplicate ration cards are the major bane of TPDS, hampering its effective implementation. Though the GoI has launched the Unique Identification (UID) programme since 2010, the time frame of its implementation as well as integration with the PDS application remains uncertain. Further, there are inclusion and exclusion errors in TPDS i.e. non-poor classified as poor and vice versa. In addition, food security can be assured only if the delivery of food grains and other entitlements are subject to authentication by the beneficiary.
TPDS supply chain is prone to leakages as there exists a substantial price difference between the subsidised and market prices of the commodities. Handling the PDS commodities at market prices along with the transfer of cash subsidies is one of the mooted approaches. However, success of such a proposal would be contingent upon universal financial inclusion.
In its quest for a solution, instead of waiting for support from outside, Gujarat tried to handle this crisis internally. A stable leadership in the state provided all the necessary resources, be it financial, policy level or administrative, for devising and implementing a successful model of TPDS reforms which is recognised by the Supreme Court of India. The Ministry of Food Public Distribution of the GoI and the United Nations World Food Program has also commended this Reform Model. In this Model, the citizen has been empowered to establish his or her identity and avail food grains while minimizing leakages and diversion. Also, innovative use of technology has enhanced transparency in the governance and delivery of entitlements to the poor. Interestingly, Gujarat’s TPDS Reform Model has been fully state funded and probably is one of the most cost-effective projects (about Rs 20 crores so far) in its category; while fully leveraging all components of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). Some of the state’s core strengths utilized for devising the TPDS Reform Model have been listed below:
- Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, has envisioned 5 fundamental Shaktis of the society that can propel it’s all round growth and development viz., Raksha Shakti, Jal Shakti, Urja Shakti, Gyan Shakti and Jan Shakti. Out of these, a few of the following Shaktis have been utilised in the development of the TPDS Reform Model.
- “Jyotirgam” is one of the core components of the state government’s vision of “Urja Shakti” that has enabled 24X7 supply of electricity – the lifeline of modern industry and technology – in all 18,000+ villages of the State. This is the mainstay of the e-GRAM center, i.e. a kiosk having VSAT based broadband connectivity along with a desktop PC, printer, web camera, bar code scanner, bio-metric device etc. and is operated by a Village Computer Entrepreneur (VCE) in all 13,697 village Panchayats in the state.
- “Jan Shakti” is the engine of democracy in the context of Gujarat’s TPDS Reform Model. An empowered citizen is the beneficiary as well as the supervisor of TPDS implementation. As a matter of fact, a citizen-government partnership is expected to bring about efficiency improvements in TPDS administration on a continual basis.
- “Gyan Shakti” is the foundation of modern civilisation. Innovative use of Information Technology (Gyan) has been woven into the TPDS Reform Model in such a way that it deconstructs a large and complex system of PDS administration into a simple and user- friendly solution.
TPDS Reforms: Outcomes
The state-wide implementation of the TPDS Reform Model is in progress since 2010. Some of the major milestones have been discussed here. As against 1.25 crore existing ration card holders in the beginning of 2010, 2012 has seen only 1.09 crore ration card holders in the state. This large reduction of 16 lakh ration cards has been achieved by door to door visits by enumerators who helped all existing ration card holders to fill up a fresh application form (Form 1) and also provide their other identity details such as Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) no, Driving License no, LPG/PNG connection nos. etc.
During 2011, the majority of Form -1′s were digitised and since the beginning of 2012, FPS wise list of all 1.09 crore ration card holders has been put up in the public domain on the Transparency Portal (http://dcs-dof.gujarat.gov.in/live-info.htm). Additionally, a list of all LPG and PNG customers (in excess of 70 lakhs) has been displayed on this Portal besides details of monthly allocation of various commodities to more than 16,000 FPS dealers.
Another positive outcome of this exercise has been the automation of TPDS, which is still in progress, in terms of generation of bar-coded ration cards for the issue of monthly permits at the FPS’s. While it has greatly improved the response time of TPDS administration, it has also reduced corruption associated with such processes, if any.
Ensuring delivery of food grains to card holders
Elimination of bogus cards in itself does not guarantee delivery. In the case of Gujarat’s TPDS Reform Model, elimination has been achieved with the help of these innovations i.e. Bar Coded Ration Card (BCRC) and Bio-Metric based Bar Coded Coupon System. Their pilots are operational since 2011 in more than 200 FPS’ areas across the state in the ratio of one FPS in each Taluka. A BCRC contains 2D Barcodes which store vital information about the card holder including the EPIC of one family member. A photograph and Bio-metric details of at least one adult from the cardholder’s family is taken before issuing the BCRC.
As shown in the diagram, the e-Gram plays a pivotal role in the TPDS Reform Model. After the cardholder’s bio-metric authentication in the pilot areas, the VCE issues a Bar-coded coupon sheet (containing commodity-wise coupons) to the beneficiary each month. Effectively, the BPL card holders get such a monthly coupon sheet free of cost while APL cardholders pay Rs 5 per coupon sheet each month. Each Bar-coded coupon has various details such as month, price, commodity, quantity, name of FPS dealer etc. Thereafter, the card holder visits the FPS along with the card and the coupons. FPS dealers collect the commodity coupon along with the printed price and hand over the quantity as mentioned therein. Once, a FPS dealer has collected sufficient number of coupons, he visits the e-GRAM to get these coupons registered at the Centralised Sale Register of that shop. This Sale Register becomes the basis of commodity replenishment in the subsequent month and it is appropriately reflected in the FPS Permits.
While the BCRC helps in the authentication of the card holder’s identity, the bio-metric based Bar Coded Coupon supports card holder’s mobility and more importantly, has a provision that gives choice of the FPS dealer to the beneficiary. As per preliminary feedback in the Pilot project areas, these reform measures have brought about qualitative changes in the delivery of subsidised commodities to the beneficiaries while the coupon based sales have registered further decline in the range of 20-30% i.e. savings of subsidised PDS commodities.
Improving Economic Viability of an FPS dealer
Considering that the TPDS Reform Model would largely curtail irregularities in the PDS, the Government of Gujarat realises the need to review the FPS viability so as to make it more rewarding. Some of the proposed initiatives are:
- Compensating FPS dealers for coupon based transactions.
- Door step delivery of food grain to the FPS dealers
- Popularising the model FPS (Village Mall) scheme and permitting sale of non-PDS items at FPS by subsidising the working capital loan of those FPS dealers who avail it from banks.
TPDS Reforms: Road Ahead
The real challenge lies in the issuance of over 1 crore BCRC to those who have applied for it. The Jana Shakti sentiment has been invoked to expedite the process of issuing Bar Coded Cards with the help of e-Grams. In addition, all APL card holders are being exhorted to voluntarily exclude themselves from PDS by making an online declaration and also printing their Bar Coded ration cards online, without any hassle. Eventually, this will help improve the efficiency of TPDS by excluding such APL ration card holders from the supply chain of subsidised food grains.
Proper classification of the beneficiaries would ensure food security for the people in need. It is expected that with voluntary support, there would be continuous collation and convergence of important beneficiary datasets that are put up on the Transparency Portal. For instance, supply of kerosene would be averted to the gas connection holders if in a given area LPG/PNG connection holders’ list is matched against the list of ration card holders availing kerosene. Similar possibilities of beneficiary data collation are abounding in the case of MNREGA job card holders, Khedut Khatedars etc. In the long run this would prove helpful in the proper classification of the poor and the non-poor.
An optimistic time frame of June 2012 has been proposed for the state-wide roll out of the biometric based bar-coded coupon system of PDS delivery covering more than 16000 FPS. Once implemented across the state, the TPDS Reform Model would be another glittering example of how Gujarat forges ahead with its mantra of “Sauno Saath, Sauno Vikas”.