The Telegraph
Thursday , April 11 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sorry NaMo, Bihar chews Raman’s PDS

Patna, April 10: Any talk of replicating the Gujarat model of development in Bihar might irk some quarters in the ruling coalition, but the government is not averse to aping the public distribution system (PDS) followed in another BJP-ruled state, Chhattisgarh.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will on Thursday launch a pilot project — aimed at eradicating corruption and irregularities in PDS — in one block each of all the 38 districts.

The model is similar, not to the one in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, but to the one followed in Chhattisgarh, where chief minister Raman Singh has won nationwide acclaim for ensuring that when foodgrain reaches PDS shops, locals are informed of the same through text message or the public address system. This has minimised pilferage of foodgrain meant for the poor and ensured that only beneficiaries lift it.

Rampant corruption in foodgrain distribution has been a persistent problem in Bihar. Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s move to introduce the “coupon system” did not have the desired effect on checking foodgrain pilferage while being taken from storehouses to PDS shops. The issue had cropped up several times in the recently concluded budget session. Legislators, cutting across party lines, complained that the poor were not getting foodgrain. Minister of food and consumer protection affairs Shyam Rajak had hinted that a mechanism was being worked out to solve the problem.

The state’s food and consumer protection department is going to launch a Doorstep Delivery scheme, under which Bihar State Food Corporation (BSFC) would despatch foodgrain to PDS shops against the existing system of dealers picking up the grain from BSFC godowns.

The department would ensure that grains reach the shops on time and PDS consumers are informed through SMS and loudspeakers that grains have reached their PDS outlets and they can purchase it. If the pilot project is a success, the scheme would be extended to other districts.

Trucks transporting foodgrain would be equipped with GPS to track their movement, sources said. A security guard and another employee would be recruited to maintain record of godown stocks. Storage facilities like godowns or warehouses would be set up in these blocks for smooth transportation of foodgrain.

The Fair Price Dealers’ Association has welcomed launch of the scheme but expressed doubts over its success keeping in mind the BSFC’s lackadaisical approach. “This is certainly a very good scheme but it is not going to be successful in Bihar. Even four months after dealers deposited money with BSFC for supply of grains for distribution among beneficiaries, it has failed to address their problems,” said Srikant Labh, general secretary of the association.

The state has 1.37 crore BPL/APL families. About 25 lakh poor families are entitled to foodgrain under the Antodaya scheme.