PDS efficacy

In response to an email exchange regarding my previous post on the impact of the PDS on food security, I looked up some data on the efficacy of the program, as experienced by BPL beneficiaries.

Bihar

Chhattisgarh

% of BPL households who did not get any foodgrains from the PDS in the previous 3 months

35

0

Average foodgrain purchases of BPL households from PDS in previous 3 months
–          Kg/month

11

33

–          As % of entitlements

45

95

% of BPL respondents who said that they ‘normally’ get their full PDS entitlements

18

97

% of BPL respondents who agree with the entries in their ration cards

25

94

% of BPL households who skipped meals in the previous 3 months

70

17

% of BPL households who would support the PDS being replaced with equivalent cash transfers

54

2

Source: PDS Survey cited in “An Uncertain Glory” by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, page 208. The survey was conducted by Khera et al in 2011 based on a random sample of 264 households in 24 villages of Bihar and Chhattisgarh (six villages per district in two districts of each state).

What is interesting about this data is the stark contrast in the experience of respondents in the two states.  The Chhattisgarh PDS program underwent a revival starting mid-2000s, based on a firm political decision to make it work, in the belief that restoring the system was critical for winning votes.  I won’t go into the details of the revival (you can read about it in the book).

The point I want to make with the above table is twofold, that a) it is possible to fix the leakages in the PDS system, and b) if the system works well, the beneficiaries actually prefer PDS food in-kind rather than “equivalent” cash.

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