Poster Paper: Providing In-Kind Food Transfers to Low-Income Households in Urban India: Results from an Evaluation of the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Chhattisgarh

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Regency Ballroom (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Raghav Puri, Syracuse University

India’s in-kind food transfer program (the Public Distribution System or PDS) has often been criticized for being highly inefficient due to high leakages (i.e. food grain not reaching intended beneficiaries). Most studies of the PDS have focused on its implementation in rural areas, leaving a major gap in the PDS literature. This poster will present findings from a study of the PDS in urban Chhattisgarh, a state in central India. Chhattisgarh’s PDS has been highlighted as a “model” for other low-income states to emulate. Chhattisgarh was the first state to enact a “right to food and nutrition” law guaranteeing food security as a right to all its residents in 2012. It was also one of the first states in India to adopt technological solutions for reducing high leakages of food grain by introducing the Centralized Online Real-time Electronic Public Distribution System (or COREPDS) in urban areas. Being the first evaluation of the implementation of the food security law and the introduction of the COREPDS in Chhattisgarh, this study provides important insights into the functioning of the PDS in urban areas.

This study covered 2800 randomly selected respondents across five cities of Chhattisgarh and collected information on the respondents’ experience while accessing the PDS. The main focus of the survey was to estimate coverage (the proportion of households eligible for PDS benefits enrolled in the program) and purchase-entitlement ratio (the proportion of entitlement reaching beneficiaries). The poster will present both quantitative and qualitative findings from this survey. In addition to the survey of beneficiaries, the study also interviewed 80 PDS managers who are responsible for managing the government-run ‘fair price shops’ that provide subsidized food grain to beneficiaries. The surveyors interviewed the PDS managers and completed a facility check-list for each PDS shop.

Together, the findings from the PDS beneficiary and manager surveys provide an important insight into the functioning of the PDS in urban areas. This fits well with the theme of the conference as it focuses on measuring coverage and purchase-entitlement ratios to help administrators and policymakers make better decisions. At the city level, it allows administrators to ensure better implementation of the PDS while at the state and federal level, it helps inform lawmakers at a time when there is growing criticism of the PDS and a call for replacing it with cash transfers.