Providing PDS beneficiaries smart cards a high priority reform

As to who should conduct the survey to identify the ‘priority' and ‘general' categories of households as recommended by the National Advisory Council (NAC) was an issue that the expert panel headed by chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, C. Rangarajan, grappled with in its meeting here on Tuesday.

The NAC has recommended that legal entitlements to subsidised foodgrains be extended to at least 75 per cent of the population, which translates to 90 per cent in the rural areas and 50 per cent in the urban areas under the proposed National Food Security Bill.

The panel, which is examining the implications of the NAC recommendations, discussed whether it should be a central agency, such as the Registrar-General of India, or the State governments who should conduct the survey. Finally, it was left to Dr. Rangarajan to decide on it.

Having taken the opinion of the concerned government departments on various aspects of the proposed legislation, the panel will come up with the draft report in its next meeting, and submit it to the Prime Minister. The panel's meeting here on Tuesday was attended, among others, by Planning Commission Member-Secretary Sudha Pillai, Food and Secretary B.C. Gupta and Expenditure Secretary Sushma Nath.

The issue of providing smart cards to beneficiaries appeared to be high on the priority list as part of the reforms to the Public Distribution System (PDS).

The panel looked at the reports submitted by the Food, Agriculture and the Expenditure departments on the implications of the NAC recommendations. It looked at the current and required levels of foodgrains production, procurement, reforms to the PDS and methodology for the survey of households.

The food department has placed before the panel the current procurement levels and the various factors that affect procurement.

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