Allow alternatives to PDS, say experts

While advocating almost universal coverage under the proposed food security legislation, a group of over 40 economists from India and abroad have cautioned against legalising the public distribution system (PDS) under the new law. Instead, they have made a case for allowing room for experimenting with other alternatives such as cash transfers and food stamps.

"Expanding coverage (of food security legislation) to a majority of the population through the PDS is problematic," said economists in a letter to NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi, suggesting the proposed legislation "permit alternatives to the public distribution system for delivering this entitlement. The method of delivering subsidy should be left open to change as the available technology and the associated infrastructure change".

The economists from prestigious institutes such as Delhi School of Economics, Indian Statistical Institute, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research , Centre for Development Studies, Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Princeton, London School of Economics, University of British Columbia, University of California and University of Warwick pointed out deficiencies in the PDS and sought allowing "experimentation with alternatives" in future.

The economists, have pointed to an alternative method of direct transfer of subsidies through food stamps or cash.

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