State governments on Monday submitted their recommendations to the Centre on how to improve the public distribution system (PDS), including steps to ensure timely distribution and reduce leakages.
The states presented their views at a two-day conference of Food Secretaries of all the states and Union Territories, which began on Monday. The meeting assumes importance as the Centre is enacting a National Food Security Act to provide cheap foodgrains to families below the poverty line.
The National Advisory Council, headed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, is looking into the draft of the proposed Bill and will send its recommendations to the central government.
"As many as 11 states gave presentations on the best ways they have adopted for effective implementation of the PDS in their respective states. Their recommendations will be presented before the Food Minister and the Planning Commission tomorrow," a senior Food Ministry official said.
States have given their suggestions on identification of beneficiaries, augmenting storage capacity at all levels, timely distribution of rations, ensuring actual delivery to the beneficiaries and eliminating diversion and leakage, among others, the official added.
A source present at the meeting said Chhattisgarh's work on computerisation of ration card data for proper distribution and to check leakages was widely appreciated by others. Punjab and Haryana are working on a similar initiative on a pilot basis.
The West Bengal government's awareness programme on PDS in a calendar highlighting information evoked interest from other state representatives. The mapping of godowns and dealers' locations through GIS was also highly appreciated.
The Maharashtra government's idea of bypassing ration shops and dealers and providing commodities directly to the beneficiaries from state godowns every three to six months was considered smart, but there were few takers, since the representatives felt the targeted beneficiaries were not supposed to have enough funds to buy their rations at one go.
Under the proposed Food Securities Act, the government intends to distribute a fixed quantity of wheat and rice to BPL families at Rs 3 a kg each month.
The number of beneficiaries under the scheme and an increase in the quantity of rations is also being debated.