ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Targeting and Efficiency in the Public Distribution System

Case of Andhra Pradesh and Maharasthra

This paper compares the public distribution of food in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Based on the 50th round of National Sample Survey (NSS) household consumption survey data, the authors examine differences in utilisation, extent of targeting, magnitude of income transfers and the cost-effectiveness of food subsidies. The findings suggest policy reforms in favour of self-targeting and greater operational efficiency.


The public distribution system (PDS)has been one of the most importantelements in India’s safety net systemfor almost 50years. The scale of theprogramme is evident from the fact thatit handles 15 per cent of the total availabilityof rice and wheat. While the PDSprovides a degree of food security to somesections of the population, there are doubtswhether the benefits are commensuratewith the costs of running the system.1 Theprincipal criticism relates to the lack oftargeting. The PDS is accused of two kindsof targeting error. While large numbers ofthe poor do not have access to the PDS,there is, on the other hand, little or noattempt to deny access to the affluent

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