Food Security: The Public Distribution System

foodPartner: Vivek S, CDDRL Stanford University


The Public Distribution System (PDS) is an Indian food security system established by the Government of India under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution and is managed jointly with state governments in India. It distributes subsidized food and non-food items to India’s poor. Major commodities distributed include staple food grains, such as wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene, through a network of public distribution shops, also known as Ration shops established in several states across the country. Food Corporation of India, a Government-owned corporation, procures and maintains the Public Distribution System.


India has a Public Distribution System with over 600,000 shops that distribute subsidized food grains and other essential materials in villages every month. In the state of West Bengal, the entitlements of the beneficiaries can change every month, and can be different in each district. Thanks to this variation, beneficiaries often do not know how much rice, wheat or kerosene they are entitled to making it easy for them to be cheated by the dealers.


Information on the entitlement of a person can be easily accessed through a photocopy from the government.  We plan to help our partner disseminate this information through automated phone calls using a hosted Interactive Voice-Response (IVR) platform called  We are looking for people with php & mysql backgrounds in order to build the app that would interact with Kookoo.  A technical partner will be available to work with the team.

With the help of a regularly updated database of food items, prices and allocated amounts per district, an application can be set up where ration card holders call a number and key in their block code (every ration district is organized into blocks with unique codes). Once the app gets the block code from the caller, it can then read out the entitlements. This can also be performed over SMS, but tests on the field have shown that there is a preference for voice-based interaction, since SMS is still a relatively underutilized feature on older generation mobile phones. Some other common problems with SMS are: the sms inbox is usually full, unused, English literacy is a hurdle for SMS, low-cost phones manufactured in Chine do not display local language script and so on. Moderators and volunteers from the field can send a structured sms to populate the price/amount info every week to keep the database updated.

Tools – being used in field tests currently – IVR platform


Healing Fields Foundation


The Situation

Healing Fields Foundation (HFF) is a not for profit organization and has provided a one year
health education training program to over a thousand local village women and given them tools
to impact the health behaviors of their families and their communities. Plans are to scale this to
about 5000 in the next 5 years. With help from HFF, many of these Community Health
Facilitators (CHFs) use their new knowledge and skills to educate the community on health
issues, sanitation, hygiene, government programs in Health and also to create livelihoods in the
healthcare sector providing goods and services. What results is a network of women making an
impact on the ground level and at the same time earning a living doing it.

The Problem

CHFs provide the last mile connectivity to the communities in which they live. Through these
women HFF gets a firsthand understanding of what the health status of their villages. We
collect data from them during the program via surveys and receive constant feedback through
our field staff. This is a labor intensive process and it takes a while before information gets back
to HFF’s main office where it can be together and made sense of in bigger picture. Of particular
interest is the need for CHFs to report spikes in the number and frequency of a particular
disease. They don’t have a quick and reliable means of getting that information to people who
can help address the issue before it becomes a serious community problem.
Additionally, CHFs can use support in the field. When people come to them with symptoms,
sometimes CHFs could use help figuring out what is wrong and refer them to the relevant health
providers which could save time and money and at times even save lives.

The Challenge

CHFs have access to mobile phones. These are basic phones that have voice and SMS, but not
data capabilities. The challenge is to create a system that uses these phones to connect CHFs to
HFF so that they can provide information on their communities and get health decision-making
support. The system needs to be fully automated or semi-automated. It must be kept in mind
that CHFs are functionally literate but not used to technical or complicated processes. The
program must be designed in a manner that it is simple to use, work in areas where there is
limited access to data networks and at the same time can be translated into multiple

Contact Information

Keep India Beautiful


Our mission is to establish a sustainable trash collection, containing and disposal system involving residents, students, businesses and government in India. Motivate the community to keep their neighborhoods, villages and cities clean and disease free and be proud of it.

We have come up with a plan systematically sort, collect, contain and dispose of trash.
Mobilize a team of students and local people to do an initial clean up.
Show them how to have an ongoing cleaning program managed at various levels.
Get government authorities to provide strong and secure trash containers and waste removal program
Provide ideas for proper trash sorting, composting, recycling and containing non-perishable trash in landfills. We have a 35 page project plan ready Find this report here.
This will be tackled using a website touching every village, city and State and similar mobile app documenting location of trash with date, photos, GPS location (heatmap) on an interactive map putting pressure challenging them to keep their area always clean.


  • Reaching out to every school, Panchayat, Municipality and City Corporations in India to join the initiative and take action in a timely way.
  • Funding to provide initial supplies like trash pickers, trash bags, gloves and trash containers.
  • Train local mentors and volunteers and run weekly campaigns and report progress
  • Creating a social capital building (points and awards) system based on their volunteer services.
  • Indian language editing support for Android App


Website in progress – need help with content and points (social capital) system
Mobile Apps – in progress, will need User Interface.

Links to Reports

Detailed document on KIB
KIB Powerpoint Presentation

Thomas Vellaringattu Ph: 516 655 4317 San Jose, CA
Siby George (India) Ph 94470 43430