Public Distribution System

What is Public Distribution System?

Public distribution system is an Indian Food Security System program established by Government of India under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. This system has been entrusted with the responsibility of distribution of food and non – food items to the poor population of India at subsidised rates. Major commodities like staple food items such as wheat, rice, sugar and essential fuels like kerosene are distributed through a network of fair price shops. These shops have been established in several states across the country. This system is maintained by Food Corporation of India (FCI).

Under this scheme each family which is below the poverty line is entitled to 35 kg of rice or wheat every month. On the other hand, families which are above the poverty line are entitled to 15 kg of food grains. As of 2018, there are around 5.27 lakhs fair price shops in India. Public Distribution System is operated under the joint responsibility of center and state governments.

How did it come to existence?

This scheme was first started in 1945, during the time of second world war. But it attained its current form in 1947. Rationing of food had already started in India during the Bengal famines in early 1940s. This rationing system was revived to meet the acute shortage of food in the early 1960s.

There has been two types of this system i.e. Revamped Public Distribution System (RPDS) and Targeted Public Distribution System (TDPS). In 1992, PDS became RPDS which focused on poor people living in hilly, inaccessible and remote areas. In 1997 RDPS became Targeted PDS (TDPS), and under this fair price shops were established for the distribution of food grains at subsidised prices.

Responsibility of the center and state governments

PDS is the joint responsibility of both center and state governments. The center government has the responsibility of transporting, storing and procuring the food grains. On the other hand, the state governments are responsible for the distribution of the same through the network of fair price shops. The state governments also have other responsibilities like identification of families below poverty line, issuing ration cards etc.

Fair Price Shops

Fair price shops, also known as public distribution shops, are established by the Government of India which distributes food grains to poor people at subsidised prices. These shops mainly sell rice, wheat and sugar along with other essential commodities at much lower price than the market price. To buy from these shops one must have a ration card. Today, these shops are present in almost every village, town and city in India.


  • Some fair price shops owners swap the grains provided by the government with inferior quality grains and sell the original stock in the market for higher price.
  • Many FPS dealers indulge into malpractices like black marketing and hoarding.
  • As these dealers resort to cheap tricks, the good quality food provided by the government does not reach the poor people.
  • Sometimes the illicit fair price shops owners make fake ration cards and sell the stock out in the market.
  • The coverage of these FPSs has not been up to the mark.
  • There is huge ambiguity as to which families are above or below the poverty line.

Despite of all the shortcomings, Public Distribution System is one of the most important food security networks in India.

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