The government distributes cheap food grains among the poor through a pilferage-prone network of 500,000 “fair-priced shops”. The Rs. 75,000 crore-a-year exercise is easy to fudge: stocks often move only on paper, not on trucks, and grains would go to feed ghost consumers.
Yet, it's a tight race against time. The system needs to be plugged and tested before the food security law can take off.
Stopping the PDS plunder required just a look at what large-format stores do to keep a tab on stocks: bar-coded inventories, electronic registers, GPS-tracked shipments and digital delivery records.
The plan is to have end-to-end computerisation of the PDS, which includes fair price shop automation, computerisation of the supply chain, digitisation of the ration card database, mobile phone alerts, and setting up of a transparency portal and toll-free phone numbers for complaints. Governments will also have to link the process with Aadhaar or unique citizen identity numbers.