NEW DELHI - “One family used to have ten cards, now it is one card per family. The new biometric card does not allow for the kind of pilfering that was going on before,” says Manoj from Gudari village in Odisha. He is the head of a large family, with ten mouths to feed. As Manoj's household income falls below the national poverty line, his family is entitled to purchase highly subsidized basic food items at the State-run Fair Price Shop.
Right To Food
In 2013, the Government of India passed the National Food Security Act (NFSA) which gives more than 800 million people across India the ‘right to food’. Likely the world’s largest food-based social safety net, the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) is the main vehicle of the NFSA. It has evolved from a welfare system to a legally enforceable right for entitled beneficiaries. Now state governments are required to overhaul previously inadequate TPDS implementation systems in line with the requirements of the NFSA.
However, running a tightly monitored supply chain and targeting the right beneficiaries have been a challenge for many states across the vast subcontinent. Pilferage and loss of commodities throughout the supply chain is rampant, causing huge losses for the Government, and undermining the ability of the TPDS to achieve its main objective – that is, to eliminate hunger among the poorest sections of the population.
The Fruits Of Technology
Over a period of several years, WFP led the development of a TPDS reform model that is now going to be implemented across Odisha state. Thanks to technological innovations, the model significantly improves the efficiency of the system and makes it convenient for the beneficiaries to receive their entitlement.
Manoj has been claiming his food entitlement for eight years at the same shop, but it is only when the new biometrics-based smart card was introduced that he has witnessed a positive development in the system. “There were a lot of black marketeering before,” he relates, “now there are no such complaints.”