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Govt to computerise PDS to check leakage

posted Jan 17, 2012, 10:56 PM by Puneet Goyal
New Delhi, Jan 13, DHNS :

Significant progress made in digitisation of ration cards

 As the National Food Security Bill was referred to a parliamentary panel, the Centre is now set to spend at least Rs 4000 crore for end-to-end computerization of the public distribution system to ensure that the highly subsidized grains to be guaranteed by proposed legislation do really reach intended beneficiaries.

The Union Ministry of Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution has convened a meeting of the Food Ministers, Agriculture Ministers of all the States in New Delhi on February 8 and 9 next. Union Food Minister K V Thomas said that the two-day conclave would review the progress of the modernization of the PDS. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar would also interact with the ministers from the States during the meet, added Thomas.

The Government was also considering a proposal to create a Special Purpose Vehicle for movement of food-grains in collaboration with the Indian Railways and the Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth reviewed the progress in this connection in a meeting recently. The Food Minister said that the Government hoped to add 15 MT additional food grain storage facilities by the end of 2013.

Thomas introduced the National Food Security Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 22 last. The proposed legislation seeks to give 75 per cent and 50 per cent of population in rural and urban areas legal entitlement to highly subsidized food-grains. The Bill has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs. The Government hopes to get it passed during Budget Session of Parliament.

The Bill has been close to the heart of the Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The Congress hopes to get as much political dividend from it as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act had delivered in 2009.

But skeptics – both within and outside the UPA – had several concerns over the proposed legislation, like huge additional financial burden that the legal right to subsidized food would impose on the Government and the leaky PDS that would continue to be used to reach cheap grains to the intended beneficiaries. In fact, in the Union Cabinet meet on December 18, the newly-inducted civil aviation minister Ajit Singh purportedly stressed on plugging the leaks in the PDS, before launching the scheme under the proposed legislation.

“We need to do a lot of work to modernize the PDS, including end-to-end computerization of the system,” Thomas said on Friday. The Planning Commission had earmarked Rs 4000 crore for end-to-end computerization of the PDS, he added.

Union Food Minister told journalists that States like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Orissa had already made significant progresses in digitization of ration cards and PDS databases.

“The digitization has resulted in cancellation of a large number of bogus ration cards, bringing down the number of cards from 10.56 crore to 7.6 crore,” said Thomas.