Villagers in poor states use ration shops less, shows survey data


Rural families in low income states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal depend far less on ration shops for wheat and rice than the national average. In Bihar, less than 12 per cent of the rural population uses ration shops to buy rice, and in West Bengal, less than 6 per cent of rice consumed by rural families is bought from these shops, data from five-yearly National Sample Surveys (NSS) show.

In richer states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka by contrast, a massive 91 per cent and 75 per cent respectively of the rural population uses ration shops.

The data suggests that states with a strong private sector market for foodgrains also deliver on public distribution of the grains. The findings from the 66th round of NSS data for 2009-10 comes as the government plans to hugely expand the public distribution system (PDS) across states with the National Food Security Bill.

Despite the weak pick-up of rice, pulses and wheat from PDS, consumption of kerosene remains high across the country, underscoring the leakage from the system. "In all major states except Punjab and Haryana, the proportion of households reporting consumption of kerosene from PDS purchase ranged from 72 per cent to 94 per cent in the rural sector," the report says.

Sunil Sinha, head of economic research and chief economist at rating agency Crisil, said, "In southern states consumption from ration shops is higher as they are more efficient, largely as many electoral promises are tied to the PDS."

In states with weak income indicators, the weak delivery system shows up in all commodities except kerosene. In rural Bihar, just five per cent of the total rice and wheat consumed came from ration shops. In UP, less than seven per cent of wheat consumed by rural households is bought through the PDS.

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