India to computerize food distribution system

The government's plan involves digitizing the ration card and beneficiary database and computerizing its supply chain management to improve efficiency and transparency.

The Indian government plans to fully computerize its system of distributing food to the poor to make it more efficient and transparent in helping beneficiaries.

A report in the Times of India Tuesday, citing a government statement, said the total outlay for the end-to-end computerization of India's targeted public distribution system (TPDS) is INR 8.84 billion (US$164.9 million).

The TPDS is India's food security system, and distributes subsidized food and non-food items to the poor.

The plan includes the digitizing of ration cards and the beneficiary database, and computerization of supply chain management, the report said. They will be implemented by March and October next year, respectively.

The government said digitizing the beneficiary database will help weed out bogus ration cards and improve the targeting of subsidies, while the computerized supply chain means the movement of food grains to FPS (fair price shops) can be tracked and the problem of leakage and diversion can be addressed.

E-mails, SMS and toll-free numbers will be utilized to inform beneficiaries on the availability of the TPDS supplies in the fair price shops to ensure timely and transparent distribution of food grains according to the beneficiary's entitlement, it added.

Incidentally, the news of TPDS computerization comes a day after a Bloomberg report where India's Food Minister K.V. Thomas rejected findings by the World Bank, Supreme Court and news investigations that said corruption and theft in the system were depriving some 160 million families of nourishment.