The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, will be installing global positioning system (GPS) devices in vehicles transporting public distribution system commodities to prevent smuggling of foodgrains. 

The pilot project will be implemented in Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu in the 11th five year plan. GPS devices will be installed on vehicles transporting targeted public distribution system commodities for tracking their movements. The project has already been implemented in two districts in Tamil Nadu.  According to the state government of Tamil Nadu, the implementation of the program in two districts has seen quantities of foodgrains allotted from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to the intended godowns reaching without any report of smuggling. The government claims that the implementation of a tracking device has created moral fear among those involved in transportation of PDS items; enabled tracking the movement of vehicles carrying PDS items at short notice and avoided delays in transportation.

Why is it necessary? 

Of course, the main motto of the project remains to prevent smuggling of foodgrains from the transportation vehicles. However, the need for the installation of the GPS device remains more than ever since the proposed Food Security Bill is estimated to give 70% of the Indian population the right to buy wheat and rice at cheap rates from public grain shops. The bill is to be discussed in the parliament in December. Smuggling of foodgrains during transportation leaves the FCI with limited supply to provide subsidized foodgrains.

Progress: The department has also taken up a pilot scheme to computerize TPDS operations to be implemented in three districts of four states — Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Delhi. In Andhra Pradesh, the entire ration card database has been digitized and supply-chain computerization is in progress. In the State of Assam, digitization of databases is under process. Another scheme for Smart Card based delivery of essential commodities is being undertaken on pilot basis in Chandigarh UT and Haryana. In the State of Haryana, the project has been implemented in four blocks whereas in Chandigarh UT, it has been completed in 13 Fair Price Shops (FPS).

Cost: The budget for the project has not been disclosed by the government yet, however, a report by mydigitalfc states that tracking about 1,000 trucks along with a data center may involve an investment of about Rs 1.20 crore. It should be noted that the government has estimated the cost of Rs 1.19 lakh crore for providing the food security bill.