A Parliamentary panel has recommended streamlining the functioning of helpline numbers to address grievances of PDS beneficiaries and installation of CCTV cameras at ration shops to monitor distribution and diversion.
The Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, headed by TMC member Sudip Bandyopadhyay, has also recommended that the government should make independent surprise visits and inspections at ration shops, also called fair price shops (FPSs). “…despite their being joint inspection of foodgrains stock in FCI godowns and presence of Quality Control Cells (QCCs) in the Department of Food and Public Distribution, there are so many complaints of beneficiaries getting inferior quality of foodgrains,” the committee said in a report tabled in Lok Sabha on July 19.
This could be the handiwork of some intermediaries which leads to diversion of good quality foodgrains and making the poor people getting inferior quality of foodgrains, it said. Sometimes, beneficiaries cannot communicate their grievances to the agencies concerned, it added. The Committee observed that the 24 X 7 toll-free grievance redressal at telephone numbers 1967 and 1800 set up in different states are not helpful in solving day-to-day problems being faced by the beneficiaries.
“…everybody knows that these toll-free numbers are not responsive to the needs of the users and most of the time the calls go unattended by the authorities,” it said. Proper functioning of these helpline numbers will enhance transparency and public accountability in the implementation of the Public Distribution System (PDS), it said and recommended the Centre and state governments to streamline the functioning of these helpline numbers amd CCTV monitoring of FPS.
The Committee also recommended setting up more (QCCs) expeditiously for addressing the issue of quality check/control comprehensively and to prevent losses arising due to damaged foodgrains stock from procurement to distribution.