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Fwd: How Chhattisgarh transformed its corrupt ration shops

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  • Thiagarajan Arunachalam
    From: *MD Kini*
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 17, 2013
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      From: MD Kini

      http://www.rediff.com/business/slide-show/slide-show-1-special-how-chhattisgarh-transformed-its-corrupt-ration-shops/20130614.htm?sc_cid=emailshare&invitekey=f14e9a6183f4962b8458f584ea018fc2#1

      How Chhattisgarh transformed its corrupt ration shops
      June 14, 2013 08:20 IST

      Sreenivasan Jain

      Chhattisgarh proves no cash transfer or Aadhar is needed to make the public distribution system work.

      Viewed from a ration shop in Surguja in the largely poor tribal north of Chhattisgarh, the arguments for and against the food security Bill seem way off the mark.

      We had travelled there to see first-hand Chhattisgarh's much-celebrated transformation of its broken, corrupt public distribution system (a recent survey found that wastage of PDS grain dropped from 60 per cent in 2004 to an astonishing 10 per cent in 2009).

      In village after village, we were told that the grain arrives every month on a fixed date, is of decent quality, not worm-infested or broken, and that every ration card holder in the village gets his/her full due of 35 kg of rice at the declared price of Rs 1 or Rs 2 per kg.

      The "revolution" began with Chhattisgarh wresting ownership of ration shops from unscrupulous private traders and handing over control to self-help groups, panchayats and cooperatives.

      Sreenivasan Jain

      Chhattisgarh proves no cash transfer or Aadhar is needed to make the public distribution system work.

      Viewed from a ration shop in Surguja in the largely poor tribal north of Chhattisgarh, the arguments for and against the food security Bill seem way off the mark.

      We had travelled there to see first-hand Chhattisgarh's much-celebrated transformation of its broken, corrupt public distribution system (a recent survey found that wastage of PDS grain dropped from 60 per cent in 2004 to an astonishing 10 per cent in 2009).

      In village after village, we were told that the grain arrives every month on a fixed date, is of decent quality, not worm-infested or broken, and that every ration card holder in the village gets his/her full due of 35 kg of rice at the declared price of Rs 1 or Rs 2 per kg.

      The "revolution" began with Chhattisgarh wresting ownership of ration shops from unscrupulous private traders and handing over control to self-help groups, panchayats and cooperatives.

      Sreenivasan Jain

      Chhattisgarh proves no cash transfer or Aadhar is needed to make the public distribution system work.

      Viewed from a ration shop in Surguja in the largely poor tribal north of Chhattisgarh, the arguments for and against the food security Bill seem way off the mark.

      We had travelled there to see first-hand Chhattisgarh's much-celebrated transformation of its broken, corrupt public distribution system (a recent survey found that wastage of PDS grain dropped from 60 per cent in 2004 to an astonishing 10 per cent in 2009).

      In village after village, we were told that the grain arrives every month on a fixed date, is of decent quality, not worm-infested or broken, and that every ration card holder in the village gets his/her full due of 35 kg of rice at the declared price of Rs 1 or Rs 2 per kg.

      The "revolution" began with Chhattisgarh wresting ownership of ration shops from unscrupulous private traders and handing over control to self-help groups, panchayats and cooperatives.

      But supporters of the Bill argue that it will pick up the extra expenses the states bear as they move towards near-universalisation. Chhattisgarh provides PDS to 70 per cent of its population - 30 percentage points more than the Planning Commission's allotment. If passed, the Bill that mandates a similar expansion nationally (from the 40 per cent to 70 per cent) can pick up the tab for the state's extra spend.

      Of course, the spectre of near-universalisation and the associated increase in procurement gives nightmares to critics of the Bill, who think it will burn a hole in the Centre's pocket and create huge distortions in agriculture.

      In the case of Chhattisgarh, the first is partially true. The move to 70 per cent coverage cost the state Rs 950 crore (Rs 9.5 billion) last year - out of a state Budget of Rs 40,000 crore. But there is no great distortion of farming practices.

      To cover 70 per cent, it procured only an additional 600,000 tonnes of rice last year over the one million tonnes it gets from the central pool, hardly a great dent in its annual production of 6.8 million tonnes of rice.

      Importantly, Chhattisgarh is happy to take the fiscal hit because the move to near-universalisation proved crucial to its PDS success. More coverage meant that deserving beneficiaries don't get excluded.

      Yes, some undeserving families sneak into the system, but the figure is far too small to count. The expanded footprint and cheaper rates meant an increase in the numbers of users of the ration shop, which places greater pressure on the system to perform. (The state is moving to 90 per cent coverage under its own food security Bill).

      Proponents of the Bill who want to wrap up the PDS and replace it with Aadhaar-linked cash transfers do not have much to cheer from the Chhattisgarh experiment either.

      Chhattisgarh proves that you don't need cash transfers or Aadhaar to get grain to the poor.

      There is an information technology backbone that has placed everything online - from the paddy procurement to the inventory of every single ration shop - but it is basic and low-cost. In fact, a more innovative use of awareness "technology" is painting the walls of every single ration shop and even people's houses with their entitlements

      As activist Samir Garg points out, improving PDS has seen a drop in child malnutrition from 47 per cent to 35 per cent. He says though PDS doesn't directly focus on the child, it allows the poor to afford other food items that, in turn, improves the child's diet.

      This is hardly to suggest that Chhattisgarh's regime with its dubious record of human rights excesses and mining-related corruption has suddenly developed a conscience.

      But regardless of political motivations, those taking positions for and against the food security Bill, would do well to ground their arguments in the experience of states that are finding ways of getting grain to the poor.

      The writer anchors the ground reportage show Truth vs Hype on NDTV 24x7.


    • jeevananda reddy
      Namaskar, Unfortunately people without understanding the concept of cash transfer - Aadhar and food security bill [which is yet be be put before the
      Message 2 of 2 , Jun 18, 2013
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        Namaskar,

        Unfortunately people without understanding the concept of cash transfer - Aadhar and food security bill [which is yet be be put before the parliament] make loose statements.

        In 2009, two IIM professors presented a report on chemical fertilizer subsidies issue and finally recommended to continue the present system of subsidy given to industry.  This report was submitted to PM also.  I sent my counter on this to the two professors and later submitted to PM.  I was talking since 2001 -- this was mentioned in agriculture black paper, which was released in the Assembly press gallery --  also presented at a meeting organized by CSA on dry-land agriculture for planning commission.  I also later included this in my submissions to 11th planning commission & 12th planning commission as well.  My proposal was to give subsidy directly to farmers instead of industry.  This was accepted and the Finance minister in his budget speech said that government is planning to give direct cash to farmers for chemical fertilizers and also to kerosene & gas under PDS.  The same was informed to me by the Ministry of chemicals & fertilizers.  Also mentioned that there are looking at how this to be executed, etc.   The basic issue in all these three subsidized products is that real people are not getting the product but somebody else are getting.  This is more than 30%.  So, with the Aadhar linked direct cash transfer this wastage in subsidy at all India level could be brought down and at the same time benefit the real people.  If we look at Andhra Pradesh people holding white ration cards and getting benefits include crorepathis -- around 30 to 40%. In this retail shops/ration shops are holding large number of illegal white ration cards. 

        In the case of the new food security bill, this bill consolidates all the programmes which are hither to running under different ministries.  This includes PDS [ration card will be issued to eldest women in the family], Anganwadi programmes, nutrition programmes to childred upto 14 years, migratees, destitutes, etc.  This also includes locally produced ffod grains go in to the system. This way we can reduce the wastage in transport and transport costs, etc.  As a result under PDS government proposed to give rice at Rs. 3 per kg, wheat at Rs. 2 a kg and coarse cereals -- grown under rainfed -- at Rs. 1 per kg [this is new addition helping dry-land agriculture].  Also, each state has to define BPL groups in rural and urban.  Like this there are large number issues. 

        Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
          

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