The Rajasthan government’s project to give a facelift to 5,000-odd fair price shops in the state through collaboration with the country’s largest retailer Future Group has ensured extra income for owners of these stores and also provided villagers in remote areas access to quality FMCG goods at lower prices.
According to Subodh Agarwal, principal secretary, food and civil supplies department, on an average people who run fair price shops have increased their monthly income by R3,000 or about 45% by selling around 150-300 FMCG products through their outlets renamed as Annapurna Bhandars. He further said the state government would extend the scheme to another 20,000 such shops in the next few years.
Earlier, the PDS stores in Rajasthan used to store only a limited number of products such as wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene.
Most of the footfall in these outlets used to be in the first 10 days of the month when families covered under the National Food Security Act and other social sector schemes would visit the outlets. The task of the Vasundhara Raje government was to identify the outlets connected by roads and where the owner was willing to invest R25,000-50,000 to refurbish the outlets.
Rajasthan selected Kishor Biyani’s Future Group via tendering to supply non-perishable daily use products – from salt to toothpaste – at discounted prices fixed by the Rajasthan State Food and Civil Supplies Corporation (RSFCSC). “We did not invite FMCG companies for these bids as we wanted to give rural consumers access to a wide range product sources from various companies as being done by Future Group,” Agarwal said.
The Rajasthan government’s RSFCSC signed a tripartite agreement with Future Group and outlet owners, where it fixed prices of the commodities in a way that the benefits of discounted prices are shared between the outlet owners and consumers. The Future Group gets access to a captive consumer base at these outlets; RSFCSC charges only 1% service charge from the firm which is used for promotional activities.
A state government official said Annapurna Bhandars will soon be invited to operate as e-mitra, an e-governance initiative where various services provided by the government and private sectors are available under a single roof. “These outlets will soon be developed as common service centres where people can get access to various services offered by the government and private sectors,” the official said.
Meanwhile, various state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have made queries on the functioning of Annapurna Bhandars. Across the country, there are around 5.3 lakh PDS outlets serving around 80 crore population. Around 4.5 crore people in Rajasthan visit PDS outlets monthly.