Fellow Since 1999
Rationing Kruti Samiti
This profile was prepared when Leena Joshi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
India distributes subsidized food grains and other essential edibles to the poor through the Public Distribution System (PDS). Led by the Ministry for Food and Civil Supplies, PDS is a large, rigid institution, mired in corruption, with cumbersome channels for procurement and distribution of grains. As a result of the scarcity and poor quality of grains in ration shops, corruption in procuring ration cards, and gradual cuts in food subsidies, hunger has increased in the country, despite record agricultural growth. Recognizing that food security (and therefore the PDS) are survival issues for the urban poor, Leena Joshi is building Rationing Kruti Samiti (RKS), a collaborative federation of consumers, citizen-based organizations, and citizen organizations, to assert people's right to food. As a consumer vigilance movement, RKS aims to cleanse the system of corruption at every level and build partnerships with providers and consumers at critical points in the government's food distribution stream. As the movement develops a mass base, it will address broader economic issues of food procurement, conduct research in alternative systems of food distribution, and launch policy initiatives to mainstream new alternatives within the PDS. RKS is a network of groups and individuals spread across twelve districts of the state of Maharashtra. After successful attempts at reforming food distribution mechanisms and policy in the area of Mumbai-Thane (the largest region of PDS's operation in Maharashtra), RKS is now moving toward statewide reform. Leena's long-term goal is to research and build acceptance for alternative systems within the PDS, thus transforming cumbersome government machinery into an agent of change.