Small incentive, big draw: How an officer makes PDS work

Jyoti Kakwani plugs pilferage in fair price shops by giving surprise gifts to those who demand receipts from the shopkeeper

By Jitendra
Last Updated: Tuesday 14 January 2020
Jyoti Kakwani.

During her field visits, district supply officer Jyoti Kakwani would get flooded with complaints from people that they were not getting the right quantity of wheat or rice from fair price shops under the public distribution system (PDS) that provides subsidised food grains.

“When I would ask them for the weight receipt, most would say the shopkeeper had not issued it,” she says, adding that without receipts, action could not be taken against erring shopkeepers.

Under PDS, every individual is entitled to 5 kilogram of subsidised wheat or rice every month, with a cap of 30 kg per household. The Antyodaya, or the poorest families, are entitled to 35 kg along with a kg of sugar. When beneficiaries buy these, shopkeepers have to give them receipts for the amount of foodgrain purchased.

Kakwani initially installed notice boards outside every shop to persuade people to collect the receipts. That did not work. So, from this July, she has started organising monthly lucky draws of the receipts. Each winner gets a surprise gift.

The lucky draws, supervised either by a government official or a village elder, are carried out in all the 106 fair price shops of the district on the last day of each month. The shopkeeper that collects the maximum number of receipts on the day of the draw gets a certificate of encouragement.

The gifts, which are usually steel utensils worth about Rs 150 each, are funded by the government’s Jago Grahak initiative or donated by local businesspersons. The entire initiative costs Rs 15,000 a month. There is now a healthy competition among shopkeepers to earn the certificate, says Jeevan Kumar Jain, president of the ration dealer union in Udaipur. “The initiative is also helping us build our trust with customers, which is crucial for the success of the scheme.”

Kakwani agrees. “In the past, when shopkeepers would say they did not have paper rolls for the receipts, people would just return home without them. Now, beneficiaries insist for the receipts and shopkeepers fear they may get caught if they falter,” she says, adding that the lucky draws would be discontinued once customers gets into the habit of demanding receipts.

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