Andhra govt to revamp PDS, may phase out fair price shops across state
If the YSR Congress government in Andhra Pradesh has its way, fair price shops that supply essential commodities to consumers might become a thing of the past in the state from September 1.
In a first-of-its-kind mechanism in the country, the Andhra Pradesh government is contemplating revamping the public distribution system by introducing supply of essential commodities directly to the doorsteps of the consumers as and when they order.
“There is no need for the people to stand in queues in front of fair price shops to purchase commodities. The civil supplies department itself will ensure that the commodities will be delivered at the doorsteps of the consumers,” Andhra Pradesh civil supplies commissioner Kona Sasidhar said.
The proposal on door-delivery of essential commodities was mooted by chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy during the first cabinet meeting of the new government on June 10. He felt that the entire system of fair price shops was riddled with corruption, as the essential commodities were not reaching the consumers, but were recycled into the black market.
He announced appointment of “village volunteers” in every gram panchayat, who will ensure that the benefits of all the welfare schemes – like old age pensions and small loans to self-help group women – reach the beneficiaries. There will be one volunteer for every 50 households in each village, who will be paid monthly remuneration of Rs 5,000 per month.
“As part of the plan, the chief minister also proposed supply of packed essential commodities to the doorsteps of the consumers using the services of village volunteers,” Sasidhar said.
According to the official, in the initial stages, consumers would be supplied with rice, sugar and red gram in packets of five, 10 and 20 kilograms. Subsequently, more commodities could be supplied.
The officials are working out the mode of payment by consumers while ordering the commodities at their doorstep – whether the village volunteers will collect money directly from consumers or whether the consumers will be given pre-paid coupons for purchasing the commodities.
According to official figures, there are 1.42 crore ration card holders in Andhra Pradesh and approximate number of consumers benefitting from public distribution system is around four crore.
However, there is no clarity on whether the government would do away with the fair price shops completely or make use of the services of existing dealers in the supply-chain mechanism.
“At this point, I cannot say anything on winding up of the fair price shops. We are still working out the modalities. But one thing is very clear. The consumers don’t have to go to the fair price shops at all. That is the whole idea of the chief minister,” the civil supplies commissioner said.
But, the fair price shop dealers are worried about their future. There are as many as 28,663 fair price shops in Andhra Pradesh providing employment to as many numbers of dealers, who would get one per cent commission on the total sale of commodities every month.
“It is unfair on the part of the government if it winds up the fair price shops and throws thousands of dealers on the streets. We request the government to continue our services,” Andhra Pradesh Ration Shop Dealers’ Federation president D Leela Madhava Rao.
The dealers are planning to meet shortly to discuss their future course of action in the event of the government doing away with the fair price shops. “We shall make a representation to the government to come to our rescue,” Rao said.
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