What is Public Distribution System (PDS)?

Public Distribution System (PDS) is an Indian food security system. Established by the Government of India under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution and managed jointly with state governments in India, it distributes subsidized food and non-food items to India’s poor. Major commodities distributed include staple food grains, such as wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene, through a network of public distribution shops (also known as ration shops) established in several states across the country.

Food Corporation of India, a Government owned corporation, procures and maintains the PDS. The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) has its focus on “poor in all areas”, Under the TPDS, States were required to formulate and implement foolproof arrangements for the identification of the poor for delivery of food grains and for its distribution in a transparent and accountable manner at the FPS level.

The Universal Public Distribution system (UPDS) is meant for all while the TPDS is meant only for the very poor. The “Targeted” means that the focus is really poor and vulnerable sections of society.

Targeting Errors: Type-E and Type-F Errors.

There are two types of errors in a public distribution system and distribution of ration cards. It is observed that transition from universal to targeted food and nutrition programs generally led to an increase in the Errors of Exclusion (of the poor) and a decline in the Errors of Inclusion (of non-poor). Targeting errors can arise in any targeted welfare programme because of imperfect information and measurement of household characteristics, cost of participation and inefficiency and corruption in the delivery system.

The public distribution system in India has been functioning since the early 1940s and extensively studied by researchers. Type-E error: the proportion of BPL (below poverty line) households deprived of their entitlement to subsided grains from PDS.

Type-F error: proportion of APL (Above poverty line) households that have been wrongly given entitlement to subsidized grains in PDS. The first is that of failing to reach the target population. The second type of mistake is that made when the intervention reaches the non-target population this we shall call an E-mistake. Four food items are mostly distributed through PDS wheat, rice, kerosene and sugar.

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