Prior to the onset of Green Revolution, India was going through a period of food scarcity to a certain extent. In order to provide food security to vulnerable segments of the population, the Public Distribution System (PDS) was evolved as a system of management of scarcity through distribution of food grains at affordable prices. This system of distributing subsidized grains has existed in various forms since 1951. Over the years, PDS has become an important part of Government’s policy for management of food economy in the country.
Himachal Pradesh is one of the pioneers State in implementing the Public Distribution System, to provide social protection by providing food security to the poor and downtrodden sections of the society. It was later renamed as Targeted Public Distribution System in the year 1997. The targeted Public Distribution System in the State has been providing subsidized grain through a network of 117 wholesale godowns of HP State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited (HPSCSC Ltd.) and 5017 retail Fair Price Shop, since the year 2017 till 2020. With the concerted efforts of the State Food and Civil Supplies Department, a massive improvement is seen in the PDS and the program has been successful in reaching the needy.
Another initiative of the Department to provide food supplies at affordable price, State Subsidy Scheme was introduced in the state on 1st April, 2007. Later the scheme was modified subsequently to benefit more people in the State. Under this scheme, subsidized sugar, pulses, edible oil and iodized salt are being provided to all the ration cardholders irrespective of category by the government out of its own financial resources. During the last three years, the State Government incurred expenditure of Rs. 574.81 crore under the scheme.
An important initiative towards food movement was the enactment of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013, which was also implemented in Himachal Pradesh. NFSA is being implemented to radically improve the food security and under this, the State Government is providing 35 kg food grains i.e. 20 kg wheat/ atta and 15 kg rice to Antyodaya Anna Yojna families and three kilograms wheat/atta and two kilograms rice to Priority Household families. Wheat/atta at the rate 11-13 kilograms per family and rice at 5-7 kilogram per family are also being provided to Other Than NFSA (OTNFSA) Above Poverty Line beneficiaries. Providing fortified food supplies has resulted in overall improvements in nutritional status of targeted people of the State.
To effectively combat malnutrition and increase nutritional values of food supplies, the State government under the PDS is also providing fortified wheat atta having iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12, fortified edible oil rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin D and double fortified salt rich in iodine and iron to the eligible beneficiaries.
With technological progress, to ensure transparency in the system, emphasis is being laid on digitization and automation of food distribution management system to increase efficiency. The Department is implementing ‘End-to-End Computerization’ to improve the efficiency and transparency in Public Distribution System. The scheme comprises digitization of ration cards and so far 19.08 lakh ration cards have been digitized. For automation of Fair Price Shops throughout the state, Android based PoS devices have also been installed at all Fair Price Shops.
In order to check corrupt practices and ensure fair distribution process in the system a campaign of adhaar seeding was launched. To wipe out duplicate/ in-eligible ration cards, 99.15 percent ration cards have been seeded with Aadhaar Number of the beneficiaries and 99.02 percent NFSA families have been seeded with Aadhaar Number of the beneficiaries.
Taking another step forward in technological progress, online allocation and supply chain automation module for food grains has been developed by the State procurement agency i.e. HP State Civil Supplies Corporation and has been implemented. SMS based alerts are being sent to the Fair Price Shop (FPS) holders as and when the food grains are received at HPSCSC wholesale godowns. As soon as the FOSs receives the stocks from HPSCSC wholesale godowns, the SMS alert is being sent to the consumers attached with that particular FPS.
To facilitate the general masses to get their eRation Card, an android-based mobile app named e-PDS HP has been launched, which is available on Play Store. The app facilitates consumers to know their entitlement, prices and availability of the food grains at Fair Price Shops and wholesale godowns.
The social protection programmes (such as Targeted PDS, subsidized food grains, etc) of the Department have proved beneficial to many segments of the society.