Model fair price shops, grandly described by the government as micro rural malls, are springing up all over Gujarat where village people can shop for all their needs 24x7.
Already 512 such 'malls' have sprouted and another 508 are on the anvil. The state government plans to have 1,000 such malls every year, official sources said.
The 'malls' are in effect model fair price shops under a programme launched to de-regulate the scope of services of fair price shops by allowing them to deal with all kinds of goods and services.
The revamping of the public distribution system undertaken by the state's department of civil supply is the first of its kind initiative in India, the sources said. There are about 15,000 fair price shops all over Gujarat.
Encouraged by the success of programme, the state has suggested to the central government that the programme be included in the list of plan schemes.
At the rural malls, people can buy not just grains, fortified flour and edible oils and other essential commodities but also get gas cylinders, cosmetic items, recharge vouchers, fertilizers, seeds and packaged goods.
The sources said the malls were proving to be viable commercial centres, meeting diverse needs of villagers.
The concept seeks to make the model fair price shops meet the retail needs on the lines of the modern market, while controlling at the same time the practice of leakages and diversion of essential goods meant for vulnerable sections of the society who are eligible holders of the ration cards,
The owners of the shops used to earn not more than Rs.1,500-2,000 as commission from sales initially. They can now hope for earnings of Rs.5,000 a month.
Following the initiative, companies like ITC, HLL, major oil companies, Videocon and telephone service providers like Tata, BSNL and Hutch are supplying their wares. Other products include Life Insurance Corp (LIC) policies and ice cream parlours.
Both state-run and private banks are trying to position themselves in the rural areas by making the malls a sale link for their financial products.
The proliferation of the malls has cut down the time and money people from rural and semi-urban areas used to spend to go to urban centres. The use of computers will be introduced gradually to take care of the Value Added Tax calculations.