The Public Food Distribution System
The public food distribution system in India is one of the government's most important tools used to fight hunger and poverty. Established in 1965, it arose from the grain rationing programs of the 1950's. While in its early years it was untargeted and mainly served urban areas, it was expanded greatly in the early 1980's so that now almost the entire population is covered by the program. A special organization known as the Food Corporation of India purchases food grains from farmers, then distributes them to state governments to sell at low prices through so-called Fair Price Shops.
The main objectives of the Public Distribution are threefold: first, to provide food grains to the poor at affordable prices; second, to support farmers by purchasing food from them at reasonable prices; and third, to maintain national food security by holding stockpiles of food. (The Food Corporation of India maintains these repositories of food grains.) Food supply is extremely important to not only the poor: food purchases account for 80% of the spending of income for the country's poor, and 60% for the rest of the population. Fair Price Shops sell at a Central Issue Price set by the government. People below the poverty line can purchase grains at half price. The public distribution program has been successful at avoiding large scale famines and starvation events through the management and distribution of food-grain supplies.
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