ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Exploring the Markers of Differential Access to PDS

The various pathways of differential access to the public distribution system in India are analysed. There are three salient features of this exercise: the use of heterogeneous class, caste and gender positioning of the beneficiaries for understanding their varying ability to access their rights; the concept of “effective prices” as a determinant of differential access; and the quality of grains and services as a marker of subtler differentiation.

India allocates a substantial portion of the domestic budgets (approximately ₹ 2,03,243 crore as per the Budget Estimate-2018) to social safety net programmes where food-based programmes cost between 1% and 2% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) (Bhattacharya et al 2017). In the context of food-based safety net programmes, the public distribution system (PDS) is held as the nucleus of food security. Yet, it faces problems of weak institutions, elite capture, rent seeking and inefficient technologies that impinge on access to food (Dutta and Ramaswami (2001; Saxena 2009; Svedberg 2012)

In this context, it is worth mentioning that the access to PDS (including issues such as whether, how and when to access), inter alia, is a function of different socio-economic factors such as purchasing power, social status, gender and social identity. The relationship of access with this complex web of social and institutional contexts potentially leads to heterogeneous situation for the beneficiaries. Heterogeneity, in turn, bears on how beneficiaries can access their rights. Through our surveys across the states of Odisha, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (UP), we have explored the differential access to PDS, where the gender, caste, and class of the beneficiaries form the basis of differentiation. The interactions of each of these factors with the ways and means of differential access are mediated through the social and institutional networks of the beneficiaries.

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Updated On : 8th Jul, 2019

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