October 14, 2022
–Kisslay Anand & Roshni Sekhar
Covid-19 pandemic poses multiple challenges to countries across the globe; with cases as high as 44,43,793 over 188 countries/regions1, more than half of the world population is undergoing some form of social distancing. The clamping down of economic activities undertaken as a measure to contain the virus spread has caused additional distress of livelihood and food security. These deep cracks into food security coupled with disruptions in the supply chain especially in the agricultural sector disproportionately affect the marginalized groups including the informal sector workers amongst others. The consequences become dire for a country like India where the total number of informal sector workers stands at 303 million. Covid-19 may push these groups into transient poverty, as reported by ILO, a whopping 40 Crore informal sector workers will be affected and plunged into poverty. Further India also accounts for a high number of inter-state migrants, as high as a flow of close to 9 million since 2011 as per railway passenger data analysis from the Economic Survey. A significant proportion of these workers stranded at destination sources are seasonal circular migrants who find it challenging to seek alternative employment and face threat to food sustenance.
The state of Andhra Pradesh has about 2100 plus confirmed cases. The state is primarily an agrarian economy engaging a lot of its citizens in agriculture and allied industries. During these COVID times most of these tenant farmers are not able to afford the rent on land etc. and all the cash transfers go into such unseen expenditure all these push to a trend of distress selling making them all the more vulnerable. The state, which is resplendent with good water reserves also faces issues of severe water stress and exploitation as identified by the Jal shakti Abhiyan, there are about nine districts of Andhra, facing severe water stress. Along with this, there is the double burden of being flood prone during the monsoons, all
1 John Hopkins dashboard, as accessed as on May 15, 2020
these make Andhra vulnerable to climate changes and variability. MSME, is one of the major other employers of the state. It employs around 70.69 lakh people. Most of these MSMEs (barring the ones making essential services) are deeply impacted with the lockdown. Further disruption in the supply chain and the trend of reverse migration hinders the sustenance of the MSMEs.
In this paper, we analyze the government initiatives undertaken by the Central government and the state of Andhra to ensure food security, challenges to the implementation of COVID-19 across the country, the vulnerability assessment for the state of Andhra and the missing gaps in the implementation of food safety net.
The Central government has taken measures to extend its safety net programs and keep its food supply intact and reach out to the most vulnerable and poorest sections of the society through some of the below initiatives:
As accessed from the government notifications till date the state has provided 1kg of red gram dal and the ration of rice for the month of April was provided for free to all rice card holders. A one -time support of Rs 1,000 to all rice card holding families for buying essential commodities including groceries and vegetables. The government also has notified that it will be providing free ration to NGOs running old age homes and childcare institutions. It includes 10 kg of rice and 1 kg of red gram dal per resident. The NGOs of the state has a critical role to play in providing the humanitarian relief measure , as per the Centre’s reply to the Supreme court of India with regard to relief centres and food provided, 84.26 lakh people have been provided meals across the country during the lockdown, of which nearly 37% people were fed by NGOs. In Andhra NGOs fed 92 percent of the people who were provided with meals. The State government has also directed the district administration to set up Special Shelter Centres in urban areas for providing food to homeless and migrant workers.
Some of the other governance mechanisms also include mobilizing village secretariat volunteers to ensure the delivery of food to remote areas. For every 50 households one village volunteer is placed who delivers and transfers the pension and the ration and any other benefit announced by the government. The government has set up an additional 471 temporary Rythu Bazars (farmers market) increasing its number from the existing 100 Rythu Bazar. This aims to increase the availability of essentials in abundance to citizens in every corner of the state and also ensure that farmers garner fair prices for their products and targeting to minimise the chance of distress selling.
Public Distribution System (PDS) is a social security mechanism for providing essential commodities to eligible beneficiaries at subsidised prices. While Government of India allots food grains (rice and wheat) and levy sugar to State Government from time to time under various PDS schemes, State Government has been topping it up with the issue of rice, red gram dal, kerosene and palm olefin oil to BPL families at subsidised prices.
Figure 1: Supply Chain of PDS in Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh State Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd. is a State Agency appointed by the State Government for lifting Rice and Wheat from FCI and Levy Sugar from factories under PDS. It is the responsibility of the Corporation to undertake transportation, storage, and delivery of the stocks under PDS at the doorsteps of the Fair Price Shop Dealers.
The transportation of stocks from FCI/factories to Mandal Level Stock (MLS) Points is called Stage-I transportation, which is being undertaken through the district-wise Transport Contractors appointed separately for food-grains and Levy Sugar.
The transportation from MLS Point to the doorstep of the F.P. Shop Dealer is called Stage-II transportation, which is being undertaken through Corporation Vehicles and Stage-II contractors.
Out of total 28,599 FP Shops, 660 FP shops are identified as no signal areas and vendors are instructed to survey with Yagi antennas for signal strength.
Andhra Pradesh public-distribution system categorises users under four different cards based on need. The most economically backward families carry the Antyodaya card—commonly called the yellow card. The pink card holders are those that fall below the poverty line. There are two other cards blue card, or non-priority with subsidy, and white card, or non-priority non-subsidy.
The state has around 28, 599 Fair Price Shops for distribution of ration in the state. Apart from the 699 Fair Price Shops in the no connectivity areas, 4847 Fair Price Shops are closed in the districts.
|Active vs Inactive Shops Vs Distribution||%|
|S. No.||Total Shops||Active Shops||Inactive S||hops||% of Inactive
The more percentage of inactive shops in the district of Srikakulam has directly hampered the distribution % of ration in the district.
A high number of Fair Price Shops are inactive (closed) in the district which creates issues for the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries are unable to procure the ration. From the above chart it is evitable that there is a correlation between inactive shops and distribution percentage.
Over the past several years, the government has introduced many reforms to strengthen its service delivery in PDS. It launched a program on end-to-end computerization of PDS to digitize the beneficiary database and the supply chain and enable the automation of FPSs. The government introduced the facility of portability in PDS to further improve the quality of service and increase competition among the fair price shops. Through portability, the beneficiaries can now lift their rations from an FPS of their choice rather than be tied to the FPS to which their ration card (RC) is mapped. PDS portability in India is largely operated at the intrastate level, through which the beneficiaries are able to take ration from any FPS within their home state. In 2012, Chhattisgarh became the first state to pilot the facility of portability in two districts through the Centralized Online Real TimeElectronic PDS (CORE-PDS). The state government of Andhra Pradesh also introduced intrastate portability for the PDS beneficiaries.
But the process of portability cards has brought a bigger challenge for the government as the percentage of portability cards is quite low in the state at 36.91%. Srikakulam has the least portability in the state with 0.66% cards.
Reasons for low portability:
The intervention of the government through Gareeb Kalyan Yojana is likely to benefit the 80-crore people registered card holders under the NFSA. But almost 108.4 million people are excluded from this PDS as per the calculations denoted by economists Jean Drèze, Reetika Khera, and Meghana Mungikar. This is because the central government continues to use Census 2011 population figures to calculate state-wise coverage. The estimated PDS under coverage stands at 2.4 million for Andhra Pradesh. Last year the YSRCP govt had identified 14.2 million beneficiaries who require food relief and assistance from the government.
With the Gareeb Kalyan Yojana relief measure, the cereal measure can be denoted as adequate however the pulses allocation seems to be falling short. With regard to the distribution of pulses, as per the Minister’s statement, an allocation of 1.95 lakh tonnes for April has been dispatched by the Centre and 93 percent of that has been received by states and only 27 percent has actually reached beneficiaries.
The Finance Minister announced the free food supply for migrants for the next two months as on May 14, 2020. Currently, the total number of states onboarded stands at 17 benefitting around 60 crores beneficiaries for one nation one card scheme. These states can implement this scheme within themselves with subsequent updation of data through dashboards containing the total number of portable cards and biometric recognition etc. The Food Minister on May 8, 2020 had reported that off the 60crore people potentially covered under this inter-state only an abysmal number of 200 interstate migrants made transactions per month ever since the lock-down began. These low numbers are attributed to lack of awareness as well as the fact that most States have suspended the usage of biometric identification at ration shops as the shop owners are reluctant to use it owing to fear and stigma of infection. The non-card holders (national food security act or state-level cards) who will receive 5 kg of wheat or rice and 1 kg chana as a part of One nation one card for next two months have multiple gaps and issues which affect every state.
The total number of portability cards stands at 26,63,267 as of May 20 and the average portability percentage at 36.91%
Another issue flagged is that the mid-day meals through ICDS are not reaching the beneficiaries and most of the Anganwadi are closed across the country; with the exception of a few states like Kerala which is ensuring the delivery of mid-day meals at home. The nutritious food intended for lactating mothers remains a concern, as specific districts of Andhra already report high levels of Anemia and during pregnancy this remains all the more a matter of grave concern. The government has provided till March 31st (working days) to the 37 govt school children dry ration including supply, rice, egg and chikkies (jaggery and groundnut cake).
Provide ready provisions kits16 (free or subsidised) with essential supplies at ration shops to save people from making trips to faraway markets, thereby reducing their exposure to infection, providing basic supplies without increasing their economic
burden, and saving them from being penalized for breaking lockdown rules. Ready rations can also be delivered as mid-day meal rations17, or, where possible, at-home deliveries18, as started by some states.