The World Bank report (based on a national sample survey) cited in Ashok Desai's article today says that in 2005 83% of households supposedly had ration cards but only 23% used the public distribution system. This discrepancy is attributed to the misappropriation of food grains. Approximately 90% of rice grains procured through the system in Assam, West Bengal, Orissa and Punjab that year never reached card-holders, presumably siphoned off to the open market or smuggled across the borders. The misappropriation is currently the highest in the western and eastern states, closest to Pakistan and Bangladesh respectively. About 80% of grains in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP, Assam, West Bengal are diverted.
Abhijit Sen of the Planning Commission calls this report 'outdated'. The government of India has consistently delayed granting permission to the World Bank to have its report published and it remains unpublished till date. He also calls the new definition of poverty 'most rational'. If the commission would actually use common sense, let alone economic theory, they would find the need to redefine the contours of poverty simply ludicrous and unnecessary and focus instead on the problem of grains diversion.