A Parliamentary Standing Committee has suggested use of CCTVs at fair price shops (FPS) to ensure effective distribution under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and also to check diversion.
Headed by TMC member Sudip Bandyopadhyay, the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution has also recommended setting up more ‘Quality Control Cells’ to ensure sustained quality of the ‘Central Pool’ stock of foodgrains, right from procurement to distribution.
In its report tabled in Lok Sabha Tuesday, the panel said it was surprised that, despite a joint inspection of the foodgrains stock in FCI godowns and presence of QCCs in the Department of Food and Public Distribution, many beneficiaries “complained of getting inferior quality foodgrains.”
“This could be the handiwork of some intermediaries, which leads to diversion of good-quality foodgrains…,” stated the report.
The report has also highlighted non-functioning of helpline numbers. “Everybody knows that these toll-free numbers are not responsive to the needs of the users and most of the time the calls go unattended by the authorities,” it stated.
“The Committee, therefore, strongly recommends that the department make independent surprise visits and (conduct) inspections at Fair Price Shops (FPSs) or entrust the job to some other independent agencies or vigilance committees to evaluate the situation and to take action thereon,” it added.
The Committee further expressed concern, saying so far “only 11 Quality Control Cells have been set up in different states, covering a minimum 2 States/ UTs”.
Calling it “too less in wake of implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013”, it recommended setting up more QCCs expeditiously to address “issues of quality check/ control and to prevent losses arising due to damaged foodgrains”.
“The Committee also note that the number of inspections carried out by QCCs at FSDs during 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 were 1159, 940 and 641 respectively, as against the targets of 1140, 1140 and 1040 respectively.” the Standing Committee report stated.
“Due to Covid pandemic/ nationwide lockdown, the targets could not be achieved during 2019-20 and 2020-21,” it added.