The move could put a big question mark over the future of lakhs of private individuals who run fair price shops.
New Delhi: In a major step that could revamp the entire public distribution system and help plug leakages, the Centre is learnt to be giving serious thought to privatising the whole setup. It would mean that a network of more than 4.9 lakh fair price shops across the country could come under the jurisdiction of a single private entity.
Highly-placed sources said the blueprint on the proposal was under finalisation and could attract major players in the food business once it is ready for execution.
The sources said the Prime Minister’s Office is learnt to have mooted the proposal and subsequently the ministry of food and public distribution held deliberations over it.
The move could put a big question mark over the future of lakhs of private individuals who run fair price shops, and who for the past few years have been demanding that the Centre give them a fixed monthly amount for running their establishments.
Several national and state-level agitations have also been taken out by associations of fair price shop owners, who are seeking a fixed remuneration from the government.
Currently, all fair price shop owners are paid commission by the respective state governments on the basis of the quantity of the food items which they sell to consumers.
For example, in Andhra Pradesh, ration shop owners are paid Rs 70 per bag as commission for rice and Rs 16 per bag for sugar. With the skyrocketing of transport charges due to the hike in petroleum prices, the dealers have been incurring losses and therefore their demand for seeking a fixed monthly remuneration rather than commissions have led to several violent protests in various states.
Sources said the move by the Centre to put the entire PDS infrastructure under one private entity could be to counter the demand of the fair price shop owners.
If all fair price shops are placed under the supervision of a single private entity, the moot question is what role will the current owners of these establishments have in the new system?
While sources say the basic idea behind the decision is to curb corruption and plug the leak of food items supplied under PDS, at the same time the ration shop owners may have to work as per the terms and conditions of the private entity if the move becomes a reality.