Deprivatise ration shops: experts

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Raipur, Mar 26 (UNI) All ration shops in India should be deprivatised and handed over to panchayats, cooperative societies, existing grain banks and other public bodies in order to streamline functioning of the Public Distribution System (PDS), experts have suggested.

A 'Raipur Declaration on PDS', adopted at a two-day national workshop on 'Food Security Through PDS: Prospects and Challenges', called for providing adequate working capital at zero interest and long-term basis to these public bodies and arrangements to store and disburse foodgrain in public buildings.

The Declaration pointed out that the current Poverty Line used by the Planning Commission to determine the poverty ratio was ''highly flawed'' as it defined per capita per month consumption expenditure of Rs 49 for rural areas and Rs 57 for urban areas at 1973-74 prices to meet per capita intake of 2400/2100 calories.

To meet similar calorie requirements, Poverty Line in 2004-05 should have been Rs 650 in rural and Rs 1,000 in urban areas per month. However, for the 2004-05 survey, the Line was roughly Rs 360 for rural and Rs 550 for urban areas. Thus a large number of poor have been left out from Below Poverty Line (BPL) lists.

''The Poverty Line should therefore be suitably enhanced taking into consideration current prices of foodgrain and expenditure on essentials such as housing, education and health,'' the Declaration said.

Pointing out that food entitlement needed to be delinked from other benefits extended to BPL families, the Declaration said that the ration card -- therefore -- should solely be a food entitlement card and not used for targeting for other schemes.

In order to address malnutrition, the Declaration said, it was imperative that pulses and oils be included in subsidised provisions of the PDS along the lines of what some state governments were already doing. Local coarse millet should also be included in the PDS.

Suggesting that commission should be increased adequately, the Declaration said that the Essential Commodities Act should be suitably modified to ensure that all offences under the PDS were cognisable and non-bailable.

UNI JJ AC 1828

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