Judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

The Public Distribution System revamp and modernization was spearheaded by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India wherein landmark Judgment were issued and this need to be recapitulated for the benefit of having a proper perspective about the efforts to improve the efficiency of the Public Distribution System. Writ Petition (Civil) No.196 of 2001 {People’s Union for Civil liberties (Petitioner) verses Union of India and others (respondent) saw the Hon’ble Apex court examine the Public Distribution System and suggest panaceas of its ills. In the instant writ petition vide order dated 27/07/2010 the Supreme Court had directed quoting extensively from the high powered committee headed by Justice D.P. Wadhwa wherein its report it has mentioned that computerization of PDS consists of primarily three components ie; creating and updating beneficiary data base. Stock management from FCI till FPS and sale of commodities at Fair Price Shops. In order to make PDS effective it is important that the delivery and management system is transparent. The citizen participating for social audit can play a crucial role in ensuring effectiveness of the system.

Justice P Wadhwa Committee Report

The Justice P Wadhwa Committee also made several recommendations pertaining to the State of Kerala which included the following.

(1) Whole Sale Distribution of PDS food grain is in the hands of Authorised Wholesale Distributors (AWDs). No useful purpose is served by AWDs and they rather indulge in diverting PDS food grain into black market in large scale in compliably in the Authorised Retail Distributes (ARDs) and the officials. AWDs are to be abolished and there functions to be entrusted to Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (SUPPLYCO) whose main objective is distribution of food grain in the state.

(2) The Committee during the visit observed that Kerala being a food deficit state is dependent for 85% of the consumption of food grains from neighboring states and to ensure food security of the people of the state the allocation of food grains under PDS / OMSS should be enhanced.

(3) The Authorised Retail Dealer honestly cannot earn enough to sustain himself and his family. To avoid running into losses he indulges in black marketing. Study of the committee shows that merely increasing the commission will not result in making the FPS profitable or viable proposition. The Committee is of the view that the concept of standalone FPS should be changed. It should be in the condition of FPS licensee that he runs a kirana / grocery shop. He should be permitted to sell all items except Non-PDS wheat and rice. Programme Evaluation Organisation under Planning Commission in its evaluation report on TPDS defined viability of FPS to mean and annual return of 12 % or more on the working capital. The committee feels that the commission rates may also be fixed in such away that the net income of the FPS dealer is at least equivalent to 12 % annual return on the investment he has made in the FPS business as observed by the Planning Commission. Among other recommendations of the Justice P Wadhwa Committee that there is no separate system of implementation of enforcement and vigilance and Public Distribution System as there is no separate cell for monitoring PDS. It is recommended that a separate division of enforcement and vigilance of PDS be started in the state to deal with the specific problems of the Public Distribution System.

The committee further recommended that the state should set up Vigilance Committees at ARD level also to keep an eye on the Public Distribution System at the lowest level. The vigilance / Administrative Committee constituted at the District / Taluk levels should be further strengthened and should meet at regular intervals. Date, Place and time for the meeting of the committees should be fixed in advance. Vigilance Committee at various levels be strengthened by including the NGOs, Self Help Groups, Consumer Organisations and Educated Youth in the Vigilance Committee at various levels. The Secretary of the Department of Food and Supply should be responsible for convening the meeting at the state level similarly District Collector should ensure that the meetings of the vigilance committee at District level are held at regular intervals at the ARDs level the responsibility can be given for convening the meeting regularly to municipal councilors of the area for urban areas and the Block Development Officer for the ARDs in Rural Areas.
This effective continuous social audit and monitoring as recommend by the Justice P Wadhwa Committee has been implemented by the State Government and the Hon’ble Minister regularly reviews the Status of these meeting during video conferencing with the District and Taluk Supply Officers. Another two recommendations of the Justice P Wadhwa Committee on increasing the effectiveness of the Public Distribution System stated that there should be a complaint mechanism and the State should set up a 24 hours toll free helpline where a beneficiary can lodge his complaint. The toll free number should be printed or stamped on the Ration Card. The toll free number for lodging complaints/suggestions should also be painted outside the premises of ARDs. There should be a system of the follow up of the complaint. A post of Ombudsman/Regulator should be set up as suggested by this Committee in its Delhi Report. The Ombudsman/Regulator should look into the complaints received through the helpline and take appropriate action against the defaulting licences and the officials concerned.