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PDS provides a safety net

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Subsidised People drawing their rations from a fair price shop in Chinthadripet.
Subsidised People drawing their rations from a fair price shop in Chinthadripet.

S. Vydhianathan

Poor and vulnerable sections insulated from rising prices of essential commodities by subsidised foodgrain supplies at fair price shops

On an average, cardholders save Rs 400 per month by purchasing commodities at fair price shops. In rice alone, they save about Rs 300 per month as the open market price of ordinary raw rice ranges from Rs 17 to 19 per kg

The main objective of the government in supplying essential commodities at a subsidised price through the public distribution system (PDS) is to stabilise foodgrain prices and to provide food security to the poor and vulnerable. To achieve this, the State has been implementing universal PDS instead of targeted PDS, according to the policy note of the government.

In Tamil Nadu, there are about 1.85 crore ration cardholders, who are entitled to 20 kg of rice each, one kg each of tuvar dhal, blackgram dhal and fortified atta and one litre of palm oil. Nowhere in the country is rice being supplied at Re 1 a kg for cardholders; on an average the monthly offtake of rice at the PDS is about 2.9 lakh tonnes. Despite complaints of poor quality rice here and there, the scheme is popular among cardholders, especially the lower middle class and the poor.

By supplying essential commodities at subsidised rates the government to a certain extent insulates the poor from the rising prices of these commodities. On an average, cardholders save Rs 400 per month by purchasing commodities at fair price shops. In rice alone, they save about Rs 300 per month as the open market price of ordinary raw rice ranges from Rs 17 to 19 per kg. Tuvar dhal and blackgram dhal are being supplied at Rs 32 and Rs 36 per kg and palm oil at Rs 40 per litre. In the open market these commodities are sold at over Rs 50. Again cardholders who have a one cylinder LPG gas connection get Rs 30 as subsidy.

Annam, who works as a maid, says her family of six requires 30 kg rice, five kg dhal and three kg sugar a month. She utilises her entitlement fully. Her ration shop at Sivakamipuram near Adayar Depot supplies her 10 kg raw rice and 10 kg boiled rice. As she wants only raw rice she has to forego 10 kg every month. She says that if she gets 20 kg of PDS raw rice it would help her family save Rs 150 per month. This is the case with a majority of cardholders.

Food Secretary K. Shanmugham says nearly 75 per cent of the cardholders were purchasing rice, 60 per cent palm oil and 40 per cent dal. Through the PDS, the government has been distributing nearly 7000 tonnes of dal, and one crore litres of palm oil.

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