Divisions Public Distribution, NFSA & Computerisation

Involvement of Panchayati Raj

Introduction

Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) needs to be strengthened and streamlined to ensure its proper coverage and make it more efficient. The system should be transparent and accountable with built-in provisions for social audit. Lack of information to the citizens with regard to functioning of TPDS gives rise to malpractices. The central issue seems to be of correct identification and issuance of ration cards to them as well as eliminating the possibility of issuance of cards to ineligibles so that only the eligible people draw foodgrains under TPDS at highly subsidised rates. A transparent and accountable system can eliminate malpractices in the system. This Department in the past has issued guidelines for involvement of PRIs which call for implementation of simple administrative measures for reforming the system. These guidelines which were shared as far back as in the year 1999 with the State Governments are now part of archives.

The Department notified the Public Distribution System (Control) Order, 2001 on 31.08.2001 which was amended in the year 2004 which included several provisions for involvement of the panchayati raj institutions in the implementation of the TPDS. These provisions aim towards bringing in the transparency and accountability in the system.

The PRIs have now been assigned various roles the provisions of the National Food Security Act, 2013 notified on 10.09.2013 as well as the TPDS (Control) Order, 2015 notified on 20.03.2015 in supersession of the PDS (C) Order, 2001 under section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. The NFSA, 2013 as well as the TPDS (C) Order, 2015 prescribe various provisions for involvement of local authorities including PRIs in the implementation of the TPDS in a more elaborate manner as enumerated in the following paragraphs:-

The National Food Security Act, 2013 notified on 10.09.2013

The National Food Security Act, 2013 has prescribed role for local authority in the implementation of all the schemes under the Act including the TPDS for ensuring that the subsidized foodgrains reach the targeted beneficiary. The definition of the local authority under the Act includes Panchayat, municipality, district board, cantonment board, town planning authority and in the States of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura where Panchayats do not exist, the village council or committee or any other body, by whatever name called, which is authorised under the Constitution or any law for the time being in force for self-governance or any other authority or body vested with the control and management of civic services, within a specified local area. Section 25 of the Act makes the local authorities responsible for the proper implementation of the Act in their respective areas. State Government can assign additional responsibilities for implementation of the TPDS to the local authority. Section 26 of the Act provides that in implementing different schemes of the Ministries or Departments of the Central Government and the State Governments, prepared to implement provisions of the Act, the local authorities shall be responsible for discharging such duties and responsibilities as may be assigned to them, by notification, by the respective State Governments.

Section 28 of NFSA provides that every local authority, or any other authority or body, as may be authorised by the State Government, shall conduct or cause to be conducted, periodic social audits on the functioning of FPSs, TPDS and other welfare schemes, and cause to publicise its findings and take necessary action, in such manner as may be prescribed by the State Government.

Section 31 of the Act provides that the Central Government and the State Governments and local authorities shall, for the purpose of advancing food and nutritional security, strive to progressively realize the objectives specified in Schedule III of the Act.

Targeted Distribution System (Control) Order, 2015 notified on 20.03.2015

The TPDS (C) Order, 2015 also provides for comprehensive provisions elaborating on the specific role that the local authorities including PRIs may be required to play at ground level in States so that the system can become transparent and responsive to the needs of the beneficiaries. The various provisions of the Order involving PRIs in implementation of TPDS are as follows:

1. Identification of eligible households:

  • Clauses 3(8) , 3(12) & 4(17) provides that the State Government shall get the provisional list final list of eligible households and the list of ration card holders displayed in the public domain including the office of the local authority and on the State web portal, showing the category-wise lists of eligible households and their members.
  • Clause 3(10) provides that the State Government shall prescribe the detailed procedure for finalisation of the list of eligible households covering, inter-alia, aspects like the process of drawing up of draft list, putting the draft list in the public domain including reading out of the list in meetings of the Gram Sabha or equivalent body in urban areas, inviting objections, disposal of objections, appeals and so on.
  • Clause 3(11) provides that the head of the local authority and the designated authority shall jointly verify and certify the final list of eligible households and the local authority shall pass a resolution adopting the final list of the eligible households.

2. Lifting of foodgrains:

Clause 7(4) provides that the designated authority shall ensure that one copy of the allocation order made to the FPS is delivered to the local authority, vigilance committees, and any other body nominated by the State Government for monitoring the functioning of the FPS.

3. Distribution of foodgrains by States:

Clause 8(5) provides that the monthly certificate shall be given by the FPS owner and two or more persons as may be authorised by the State Government such as head of the local authority, Executive Officer, Secretary of the local authority, members from the vigilance committees, women’s self help group among others

4. Operation of FPSs:

Clause 10(4)(vi) provides that the licence issued by the State Government to the FPS owner shall lay down the duties and responsibilities of the FPS owner, which shall include, inter alia,- that the accounts of the actual distribution of foodgrains and the balance stock at the end of the month, at the FPS, shall be sent to the designated authority of the State Government with a copy to the local authority.

5. Transparency and accountability:

Clause 12(2) provides that every local authority, or any other authority or body, as may be authorised by the State Government, shall conduct or cause to be conducted, periodic social audits on the functioning of TPDS, and cause to publicise its findings and take necessary action, in such manner as may be prescribed by the State Government.

6. FPS owner to include Gram Panchayat/ PRIs:

Clause 2 (j) defines the "fair price shop owner” as a person and includes a cooperative society or a body corporate or a company of a State Government or a Gram Panchayat or any other body in whose name a shop has been licensed to distribute essential commodities under the Targeted Public Distribution System.

7. Preference in FPS licensing:

Clause 9 (4) provides that the State Government shall accord preference to public institutions or public bodies such as panchayats, self help groups, cooperative societies in FPS licensing and management of FPSs by women or their collectives.

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