Able to boast the second largest population in the world, India also holds the second largest stock of grain. The government’s Public Distribution System, or PDS, works in cooperation with the state governments to provide subsidized food staples and nonfood items to millions of its poverty-stricken people. However, the system is overrun with fraud and theft with goods often being diverted to the black market. Authorities have tried several tactics to curb the criminal activity but have had little success until now. Two successful pilot programs found the answer in GPS technology.
The states of Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh launched a five-year plan from 2007 to 2012 to install GPS tracking devices on the vehicles they use for PDS distribution. At the end of the trial period, they found that a higher percentage of the goods were making it to the final destination without loss or diversion into the black market. The new system has created a “moral fear” in those involved in the process, ensuring that those most needy get what they most need. The system also helped increase efficiency and cut costs throughout the entire distribution process.
The Government of India is responsible for 1.21 billion people according to 2011 census records, and it spends approximately $13.6 billion for its stock of food grain. Still, more than one-fifth of the population is undernourished. Though the government is responsible for procuring, storing, transporting, and allocating the goods, it is up to the states to make sure the goods are distributed. The PDS was established to help states get wheat, sugar, rice, and even kerosene to the poor. Using ration shops, state governments allot 35 kg of food grains per family per month for those below poverty level (more than 65 million) and 15 kg per family per month to those above poverty level (about 115 million) at subsidized rates.
With so much food in the hands of a few governing officials, it is important to make sure bribery and corruption do not lead to fewer rations or substandard rations for the poor and needy. In light of the success stories noted above, other states like New Delhi are requesting financial support to equip their PDS trucks with GPS tracking devices. Authorities will know exactly where goods are at all times and whether there are any diversions along the way. Hopefully, with stricter accountability through global positioning system technology, the percentage of undernourished in India will decline.Google+