Public distribution system means distribution of essential commodities to a large number of people through a network of fair price shops on a recurring basis. It evolved as a major instrument of the government's economic policy for ensuring availability of food grains to the public at affordable prices as well as for enhancing the food security for the poor. It is an important constituent of the strategy for poverty eradication and is intended to serve as a safety net for the poor whose number is more than 33 crores and are nutritionally at risk. It has a strong network of 4.99 lakhs fair price shops. It is the largest distribution network of its type in the world. The commodities available under this scheme are "rice, wheat, sugar and kerosene".

This huge network can play a more meaningful role if only the system is able to translate into micro level, a macro level self-sufficiency by ensuring availability of food grains for the poor households. Access of the poor to food is a priority objective of two reasons

i) The growth of food grain production declining and not in proportionate of population increasing phenomenon. This situation creates structural imbalances in the economy. The structural imbalance in the economy is caused by "rising capital intensity, lack of land reforms, failure of poverty alleviation programmes, growing disparity between towns and villages etc".

ii) If consumption of the poor does not increase there would be serious demand constraints on agriculture and could make the growth of 4.5% per annum unachievable. It distributes each year, commodities worth more than Rs15, and 000 crores. The production problems in less endowed regions, which have led to a dangerous situation of huge pile-up inside FCI godowns and widespread incidence of hunger outside. There is a strong need to correct these policy imbalances as to increase food production. The following schemes are available under public distribution system in India.

* Mid day meals scheme
* Wheat based nutrition programme
* Scheme for supply of food grains to sc/st/obc hostels/welfare institutions
* Sc/St/Bc/Obc hostels
* Annapurna scheme
* National programme for adolescent girls
* Emergency feeding programme
* Village grain banks scheme

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