Silvia MasieroIn my article on India dismantling its own food security system by using, to an extent paradoxically, the very same technologies devised for enhancing the system’s effectiveness, I have argued that the UID project, as elaborated by the Indian central government, poses a serious threat to the PDS, the system that should guarantee nationwide food security. It is suggested, indeed, that by substituting ration cards with a multipurpose 12-digit number, the new system will delink households from their local ration dealers, and undermine, by doing so, the viability that each ration shop has developed over the decades. The idea of substituting a “costly” food security system with a more efficient one, based on bank transfers or on food stamps to the poor, is opposed primarily by the very recipients of PDS – namely, those citizens that do not avail a bank account to receive transfers, and have relied on subsidized rations for the entire duration of the PDS. And still, in observing these dynamics, we should bear in mind the praeludium of the story, marked by the unmaking of the universal PDS through the neoliberal policy turn in June 1997.

The PDS is a food security system based on the distribution of foodgrains, and other primary necessity goods, at subsidized prices, to make these universally accessible. Procurement of PDS commodities is carried out by the central government, through a state-owned corporation (the Food Corporation of India – FCI) that buys them from private producers at below market prices. Subsequently, PDS goods are lifted by the states, and distributed, at the intra-district level, through a network of Fair-Price Shops (FPS), owned and managed by authorized ration dealers. So organized, distribution of PDS commodities should be reaching all parts of the nation, through the strategic positioning of ration shops to maximize accessibility, even in remote rural villages.

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