Doorstep delivery of PDS ration? Delhi govt move "unlikely to achieve anything, may end up making matters worse"

Jean Dreze
By Our Representative
Following the Supreme Court order, which has indicted both the Centre and the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi, restoring some of the powers of the elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of Delhi, even as cautioning LG to not play an “obstructionist” role, the AAP government has decided to push several of the schemes “blocked” LG, insisting these do not need “concurrence” of the LG.
One of the schemes is doorstep delivery of ration, targeting 20 lakh beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System (PDS). To solve “widespread corruption” in PDS, the Arvind Kejriwal cabinet approved the scheme and in sent the file to the LG for approval. While LG did not approve it, following the apex court verdict, the state government is all to float it.
At least two senior scholars, known for opposing the way the Government of India is implementing the PDS system by making aadhaar and biometric authentication compulsory, however, have taken exception to the AAP move, too, insisting, the scheme is not “not practical nor desirable”. This is what they say in an email alert to Counterview:

Jean Dreze, Belgian-born Indian development economist and activist:

In the context of the Public Distribution System (and in the National Food Security Act), the term "doorstep delivery" generally refers to bulk delivery to PDS shops, not home delivery to PDS beneficiaries. Home delivery, in general, is neither practical nor desirable.
If biometric authentication is removed, as it should, the problem of old people not being able to go in person to the ration shop will be solved - they will be able to ask a neighbour or relative to go on their behalf (as they used to do before biometric authentication).
At best, doorstep delivery to a person's home should be an emergency measure in exceptional cases (e.g. possible starvation), in areas where biometric authentication applies.
It is important to avoid creating chaos in the PDS by making home delivery a general practice, as the Delhi government seems to be considering.
Reetika Khera

Reetika Khera, associate professor of economics in the Public Systems Group at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad:

Following the Supreme Court's verdict on the Delhi government, it appears that the Delhi government plans to push ahead with its plan of doing 'door step delivery' in the PDS. The idea was mooted in light of large scale exclusion resulting from the introduction of Aadhaar based biometric authentication (ABBA). It was heartening to see that the Delhi government was willing to acknowledge that there is a problem which needs action. Unfortunately, the proposed solution - i.e., door-step delivery - is unlikely to achieve anything and may end up making matters worse.
One, it will not solve the problem of exclusion due to ABBA (largely due to biometric and connectivity failures). So long as ABBA continues, exclusion will continue. ABBA brings no benefits in terms of reducing corruption, only increases people's hardships. ABBA pain without gain. Two, doorstep delivery at the doorstep of PDS beneficiaries may reduce transparency and increase corruption. Distribution of grain in a public place reduces the chances of cheating. Three, the proposal is impractical - who will deliver to people's homes, who will maintain oversight over these people, who will bear the additional costs, etc.
The Delhi government should instead explore smarter options, such as smart cards.
PS: In the National Food Security Act, 'doorstep delivery' refers to the doorstep of the ration dealer, not the PDS ration cardholder. Dealers used to transport grain from FCI godowns to their village, but used this as an opportunity to sell it in the open market en route.
As a solution to that, food departments began arranging transporters to the dealers doorstep (Chapter V of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), "Reforms in the Targeted Public Distribution System", section 12 (2)(a) clearly states: "doorstep delivery of foodgrains to the Targeted Public Distribution System outlets").

Comments

Melbourne Desi said…
The scholars who are opposing home/doorstep delivery of PDS rations should explain how does Amazon deliver every damn thing at the doorsteps in Western countries. There are companies who are even delivering daily cooked food on the doorstep. It also creates employment for those who deliver this stuff. I feel PDS rations can be delivered on the doorstep provided there is will. Perhaps, if there is WILL there is WAY. LET THIS EXPERIMENT TAKE PLACE!
Niranjan Dave said…
Delhi govt may try this as a pilot project for a limited area . Results would indicate whether this is practicable for entire population. The experiment is not irreversible like demonetisation