ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Questioning the “Phenomenal Success” of Aadhaar-linked Direct Benefit Transfers for LPG

The Aadhaar-linked Direct Benefit Transfer scheme for reducing leakages in Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) subsidies has been widely advertised as a phenomenal success and has been used to promote Aadhaar and DBT in other spheres by prominent government officials. However, analyses of various studies and data shows that the government’s tall claims of savings cannot be confirmed and leaves much to be questioned.

Child Malnutrition in Rajasthan

Remote parts of southern Rajasthan such as Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banswara and Rajsamand are characterised by a predominance of tribal groups and a high prevalence of unskilled, male, seasonal outmigration. A study conducted in these parts in 2014 shows high levels of malnutrition among children in this region. It also discusses how socio-economic characteristics translate into severe resource limitations at the household level, primarily in the availability of nutritious food. Mothers are faced by time and energy constraints in providing adequate care to young ones, especially in migrant households. Normalisation of malnutrition in community perception, rooted in the structural deprivations experienced by these communities, further entrenches the problem. The study argues that implementing local solutions and adopting strategic policy reforms can offset these constraints to child nutrition in such tribal areas.

Foodgrains : Distribution Woes

Distribution Woes The targeted public distribution system (TPDS) was launched in 1997 in order to make up for the many lacunae in the PDS programme in terms of reaching food to the poorest and the most needy. Under the TPDS, state governments were required to design and implement a system of identifying the poor and ensuring distribution of foodgrains to them in a transparent manner. TPDS was initially aimed to cover 6 crore families for whom 72 lakh tonnes of foodgrains were to be allocated annually. The per family allocation for the belowpoverty- line (BPL) population was gradually increased from 10 kg per month to the present 35 kg per month. Yet, according to a recent report of the standing committee of parliament attached to the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, offtake of wheat and rice under the PDS has been consistently way below allocations year after year. The offtake in 2001-02 was below 50 per cent of allocation, which was more or less the situation in the earlier years too.

Food Security

Sustained development of agriculture for ensuring food security needs country-specific measures, with a vital, balancing role played by all three crucial institutions of state, markets and civil society.

Food Distribution : Focus on Local Effort

Focus on Local Effort More than two months after reports of starvation deaths in Orissa hit the headlines, the central government has decided to launch a grain bank scheme in the tribal areas of the country. The scheme, to be initially implemented in 1.14 lakh villages, has an outlay of Rs 1,066 crore and will involve the setting up of a grain bank on demand in each of these villages. The banks will be stocked with 1 mn tonnes of grain worth Rs 1,000 crore (at the so-called economic cost) provided free of cost as a onetime grant by the central government, and Rs 66 crore will be spent on transportation of grain and other expenses such as on setting up of storage bins. The plan follows the announcement by the government earlier of its intention to provide 5 mn tonnes of foodgrain

Food-For-Work : Role for Panchayats

Two questions need to be sorted out with regard to the organisation of the food-for-work programme announced by the centre. One, financial and the other, administrative. Obviously the central government has made up its mind to bear the full cost of releasing food stocks for the programme. Under the Sampoorn Gramin Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) 50 lakh tons of foodgrains worth Rs 5,000 crore are to be made available to the states annually. Whether or not the distribution, free of cost, of 50 lakh tons of foodgrains to the states would be shown by the centre as part of its budget has not been made clear. The question whether it should be shown as such is itself open to some dispute, for the reason that the foodgrains to be distributed will be part of the food stocks already held by the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The question would arise only with regard to the cash component of Rs 5,000 crore to be handed over to the states for implementing the scheme.

Taking the PDS to the Poor: Directions for Further Reform

This paper examines the costs and benefits associated with the operation of the Public Distribution System (PDS) for foodgrains in India. It illustrates through counterfactual simulations how the benefit-cost ratio for the PDS increases when subsidies are targeted at the poor and indirect benefits are accounted for, even in a scenario where PDS grain is procured at market prices. However, administration of directly targeted PDS is difficult and can lead to the error of excluding the poor. The paper therefore examines the inefficiencies in the system, comparing costs of public storage and distribution operations with those of private agents and discusses how the rising government costs can be curtailed by making administration more efficient and relying on market forces for spatial distribution of grain. Finally, it discusses the issues involved in the targeting of PDS to the poor and examines the potential for geographic targeting.

Edible Oil Consumption

In India, edible oils are a significant source of essential fats. However, fat intake is almost absent among the rural poor, for whom edible oils are largely unaffordable. Edible oil consumption should be encouraged among the rural poor by supply via PDS at low cost. Steps to boost cultivation and lower the cost of production and import will also help to meet requirements.

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