Maya Ganesh, Rakesh Allu, Sarang Deo,Sripad DevalkarDownload PDF
India’s Public Distribution System (PDS) is one of the biggest food security programs in the world where every family unit, in view of its monetary status, is qualified to get a fixed amount of food grains each month through government authorized outlets called Fair Price Shops (FPSs) at vigorously subsidized costs. As of September 2019, around 10 states have started to leverage the recently formed feature of biometric authentication to allow beneficiaries to verify their identity and collect their entitlements at any FPS in their state. This offers beneficiaries the choice of when and where they can avail their food entitlements while the government controls what and how much. It is expected that such “portability” of benefits will provide convenience to the beneficiaries and cut down the monopoly power of the FPS dealers.
In this paper, large-scale program data has been used from one Indian state to analyze the uptake of portability among beneficiaries and identify its underlying drivers.
It was found that the primary factors that influence the uptake of the system depend on are the number of agents a beneficiary has access to and the number of days in a month an agent is open to distributing food entitlements. It has also been found that usage levels among the vulnerable populations such as the rural, the poor, the elderly and the socially disadvantaged, are lesser in comparison to their non-vulnerable counterparts.
Given that the Government of India is envisioning a national level rollout of this program, the findings can be used as inputs both during design as well as execution of such rollout. More broadly, this study contributes to the sizeable literature on choice-based interventions in public programs such as healthcare, pensions and insurance.
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