The government has accepted in principle the recommendation of a task force headed by Unique Identification Authority of India chairman Nandan Nilekani for setting up a dedicated mechanism for end-to-end computerisation of public distribution system (PDS) across the country to check pilferage.
If the task force's report is implemented, persons or families below the poverty line will have the choice of either getting subsidised items from a PDS outlet of their choice or receive cash directly.
As part of its two-phase strategy, the panel has suggested creation of a national information utility or a public distribution system network (PSDN) by April 2012.
The pilot projects are likely to start by December 2012. The first phase of PDS revamp will aim to improve the supply chain, and the second will focus on direct transfer of subsidy.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday gave in-principle approval to the report, and said he has asked the ministries of consumer affairs and food and public distribution ''to examine the report for implementation in a time-bound manner, and if required, to seek the guidance of the EGoM (empowered group of ministers) for any remaining unresolved issues''.
Plugging loopholes in the infamously leaky PDS is big challenge before the UPA government, which is working on food security legislation.