PDS ration home delivery scheme awaits Maha cabinet nod



Mumbai: A scheme to ensure home delivery of food grains available under the public distribution system and help the Maharashtra government save around Rs 200 crore per year is awaiting the nod of the state cabinet.

The scheme, which began as a pilot project in Nashik district, is presently being implemented in about 3,000 villages in 11 of the 35 districts in Maharashtra.

"The scheme is likely to come up before the cabinet in the next few weeks, and would be implemented throughout the state after the cabinet nod," an official said.

Under this model, foodgrain are distributed through PDS, once in three months, six months or a year. This is in contrast to the monthly distribution system, which is expensive in terms of transportation and is also not effective in clearing stocks.

The scheme is the brainchild of senior bureaucrat Shekhar Gaikwad, now in the Chief Minister's Office, who launched it when he was Nashik's Additional Collector.

Some glaring lacunae in the present PDS include food grain not reaching the village; beneficiaries failing to receive their monthly allotted quota; shops are rarely open; if and when they get the food grain stock, the price demanded by the shopkeepers is generally higher than the announced price and the grains are adulterated and of bad quality.

Gaikwad thought of a novel way to get around some of the shortcomings by giving families food in advance. Under the 'home delivery' scheme, BPL beneficiary families come together and demand three months ration in advance. People collect money and deposit in village itself with talathi/supply inspector. Once this amount is paid, their quota of ration is delivered by the government to their village.

After the amount is deposited in block-level treasury, a tempo comes to the village and food grain sacks are distributed on the basis of what has been paid to each family, in an open space in front of all the beneficiary families.

Gaikwad's project has been a hit with local self-help groups of women who collect the required amount, keep records of the collection, travel to the block office to pay, and are present during distribution to ensure proper allocation.

The new model has the potential to make rotting food grain in government godowns a thing of the past, the official said. The system is also transparent as food grain distribution takes place before the community and once distributed, independent agencies and NGOs can verify whether the grains are properly utilised.

Gaikwad, who had made a presentation of his model before Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia last year, said they liked the model as it did not incur any additional cost for the smooth distribution of food grain.

"The beneficiaries in rural areas now understand that the government had kept this much food grain aside for each family," Gaikwad said. The element of transparency is a boost as the entire village knows who are the beneficiaries as the food grains are distributed in presence of everyone.

PTI