in a bid to stop pilferage in the Targeted Public Distribution System (tpds), the Union
government plans to introduce food coupons for people below poverty line (bpl).
Under the scheme initiated by the Union ministry of food and civil supplies, the coupons worth a fixed amount of cash, instead of food grains, will be issued to bpl families and the beneficiaries can choose what food to buy. The coupons can be exchanged for food grains at the fair price shops.
Ministry sources say that two pilot projects are underway in Maharashtra's Thane and Gujarat's Anand districts. The Planning Commission had proposed the idea of food coupons in the 10th Five Year Plan. The finance ministry took this up as part of its roadmap for reducing central government subsidies. However, experts say experiences in countries like Sri Lanka show food coupons are not inflation-adjusted, and can be easily duplicated. "Women's access to food is likely to be compromised since the coupons can be easily bought or sold in the market," says Biraj Patnaik, principal adviser to the Office of the Commissioners of the Supreme Court. K S Gopal, director of Centre for Environment Concerns, Hyderabad, says, "Public distribution system is meant to target hunger and address agriculture pricing issues. The coupon system doesn't address these."
N D George, director of food and food Security of the Planning Commission, says use of smart cards within tpds is also under consideration for the efficient monitoring of food grain disbursements.
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