The Karnataka government has undertaken a massive project to repair the public distribution system in the state. The Hindu reports that the southern State has plans to install networked, biometric, touch screen based weighing machine cum point of sale devices in more than 21,000 ration shops in the state at a cost of nearly Rs 100 cr over the next six months.
The machine authenticates the biometric details of a ration card holder before generating the bill. The GSM sim card based machine also sends information to the central server so that there is little scope for pilferage. However, given the gravity of the problem, installing these weighing machines may not be sufficient to deal with rampant corruption and blatant theft in Karnataka.
The rot within: Monthly losses pegged at Rs 145 cr
Karnataka’s public distribution system is perhaps the worst of all the government run systems in the State. Every month, the state loses Rs 145.8 crore on account of leakages in transportation, distribution and theft. More than 1.5 crore ration cards have been distributed in the state where as there are only a total of 1.2 crore families. According to studies (copy with Pi) carried out by Dr R Balasubramaniam for Lokayukta-Karnataka’s anti corruption watchdog, more than 49 % of people included in the below poverty line category are ineligible as per the states present assessment criteria.
The study points out that nearly Rs 54.4 crore is lost every month due to over allotment as the government does not know how many families are currently active. There is also a monthly loss of over Rs 56 crore during transportation and similar losses at various stages. An integrated system, which brings in transparency and accountability is needed. Experts have also recommended universal PDS and direct cash transfer as alternatives to the present system.
For details of the current proposal, check out the government’s request for proposal here. (pdf)