In a meeting with the state governments on Wednesday, food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey proposed the idea of selling small cylinders through the outlets of fair-price shops (FPS). This idea would be a part of a wider initiative to boost the financial viability of these shops, which are the backbone of the public distribution system.
At a virtual inter-ministerial and inter-State meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Pandey stressed on proactive measures to enhance the fiscal health of ration shops. Apart from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry, representatives of oil marketing companies (OMC) such as the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum (BP), Hindustan Petroleum (HP), as well as those from the CSC e-Governance Services India Limited (CSC) attended the meeting and promised their support to interested State Governments, according to the Ministry.
Department of Financial Services assured that financial services through the ration shops and MUDRA loans to FPS dealers would be extended by banks for capital augmentation.
“The decision may help the government to deliver a subsidised cylinder to the very poor families as delivery of it can be authenticated with biometric proof as done in case of foodgrains. Even state government can provide subsidy if these cylinders are sold through ration shops as it may curb pilferage,” said an official.
There are 5.32 lakh ration or fair price shops whose main role is to distribute subsidised foodgrains to the 80 crore beneficiaries covered by the National Food Security Act. In order to leverage this network, the centre is looking into introducing the retail sale of the cylinders.
In Noida, the refill of a small cylinder of 5-kg capacity costs around Rs 375 while a new one costs around Rs 1,400 which includes regulator also, a retailer said.
Urging states to take proactive measures to increase the financial viability of ration dealers, Pandey said there is a need for sensitisation on potential benefits and capacity building of FPS.
“Proactive measures to be taken to enhance the financial viability of FPS. Plan of retail selling of small LPG cylinders is in the anvil,” the ministry noted in a statement after the meeting.