Public Distribution System

PDS means distribution of essential commodities to larger section of the society, mostly vulnerable people, through a network of fair Price Shops on a recurring basis.

  • The essential commodities under PDS at present are wheat, rice, sugar and Kerosene.

The first government intervention in the PDS in India started in 1940 during the interwar period.

Further genesis of PDS occurred during the periods of India-China and India-Pak wars when country face critical shortages of food grains.

FCI was established in 1964 to handle the shortage of food grains clubbed with black marketing of the food grains by hoarders was a reason for the government to take some action for the containment of rise in food grains prices and ensured access of food to urban consumers. The PDS network expanded in 1970s and 1980s, after the Green Revolution.

In the 1980s, the PDS coverage was extended to the rural areas. By 1985, efforts were made to make it available to all the tribal blocks of the country.

  • Today, with the network of around 5 Lakh fair price shops PDS is virtually world’s largest system of its kind.

However, PDS was criticized for several reasons. A few of them are as follows:

  1. Its bias towards the urban consumers and inability to reach to the last corner of the country.
  2. Some states such as Bihar and UP were virtually out of the PDS network.
  3. There are no criteria of monitoring the high income group purchases more than low income purchases.
  4. The coverage and network of PDS does not ensure that the poorest or the poor is benefited/
  5. The PDS has been untargeted and proved to be regressive in some parts of the nations.
  6. Consumers get inferior food grains in ration shops. Because, the dealers replace good supplies received from the F.C.I. with inferior stock.
  7. Issue of the bogus cards in large numbers which are used to procure the grains from the PDS and sell them in open market.
  8. The dealers have little profit so indulge in malpractices.

In other words, despite of having world’s largest Public Distribution System, there are people dying in the country out of hunger.

Is PDS only central government’s responsibility?

No, it is operated under the joint responsibility of the Central and the State Governments. The Central government, through FCI has following responsibilities:

  1. Procurement, storage, transportation of food grains
  2. Bulk allocation of food grains to the State Governments.

The state government’s responsibility is operational. They are as follows:

  1. Identification of families below the poverty line
  2. Issue of Ration Cards
  3. Supervision of the functioning of FPS.

The PDS commodities viz. wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene, are allocated to the States/UTs for distribution. Cloth, exercise books, pulses, salt and tea, etc. are distributed by the state governments.

Revamped Public Distribution System (RPDS)

Till 1992, the PDS was untargeted and a general entitlement scheme for all consumers. Due to criticism & mismanagement allegations, in June 1992, the Revamped Public Distribution System (RPDS) was launched in 1775 blocks of the country. However, in 1997, the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was introduced with effect from June 1997.


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