Analysis of six monthly distribution system for food grains in the public distribution system of Punjab, India: A beneficiary's perspective

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Grover, Abhay
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Shweta Chopra
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Public distribution system is a food security program in India providing safety net for the below poverty line citizens of the country. Its objective is to feed the most vulnerable population by providing subsidized food grains and other essential commodities on a monthly basis through its integrated network of supply chain. But the system is affected by various inefficiencies and malpractices. To improve the efficacy of the system, the state of Punjab introduced the new atta-daal (wheat pulses) scheme. One of the features of the scheme was to distribute grains to the beneficiaries on a six monthly basis (semi-annually) instead of on a monthly basis. With the change in interval of grain distribution, the policy makers estimated huge financial savings for the state and improved grain quality and quantity for the beneficiaries of the system. But an exploratory research visit suggested some concerns from the beneficiaries such as problems with grain handling and one-time payments. Beneficiaries play a critical role in successful implementation of any new policy directly affecting their livelihoods. Therefore it is essential to understand their perspective. This research is an attempt to analyze and understand the policy through beneficiaries’ viewpoint.

The first study investigated the factors affecting the preference of beneficiaries for six monthly distribution system. Historically, their preference for a policy is affected by various socio-economic, demographic and institutional factors. This study was conducted in two stages where-in an exploratory research visit with 40 participants among seven stakeholders helped in defining the research problem and resulted in thematic codes which further helped in designing a survey. Thereafter a survey was conducted among 300 beneficiaries across eight rural and six urban locations in district of Ludhiana in Punjab. Analysis of the data using logistical regression modelling yielded several facilitating, impeding and demographic factors which affect beneficiaries’ preference to successfully adopt the new policy. These factors included “monthly hassle”, “perception of leakages in system”, “storage challenges”, “interval of grain distribution”, “one-time down payment”, “trade of bulk grains by family”, “exploitation by middle-men”, “communication of arrival of grains”, “gender”, “area” (rural/urban) and “nature of employment”. A deeper understanding of these factors helped authors make policy suggestions to the policy makers.

The second study uses multi-attribute utility theory for a formal decision analysis of the six monthly distribution system and its various identified alternatives from beneficiaries’ perspective. Authors use the data collected during exploratory research visits and survey conducted with 300 beneficiaries to identify the overall objective of introducing the policy change. This data is further used to identify various alternatives to six monthly distribution system and the best alternative for beneficiaries. Authors compare all the alternatives to understand their relative strengths and weaknesses and further make suggestions to improve the status quo. Five feasible “alternatives” for six monthly interval of grain distribution (status quo) were quarterly distribution, annual distribution, the old one monthly system, a one monthly system with new regulations and an improved six monthly distribution system. The improved six monthly system was identified as the best solution among given alternatives. A sensitivity analysis established the robustness of the solution.

Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2017