The Centre, in the coming days, could allow Fair Price Shops (FPS), also known as ration shops, to sell small liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders and also offer financial services, in an attempt to ensure the financial viability of such outlets. The suggestion in this regard was taken up during an online interaction between the Union Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs and State Governments on October 27, with Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey chairing the meet.
"Proactive measures to be taken to enhance the financial viability of FPS. Plan of retail selling of small LPG cylinders is in the anvil," the ministry has been quoted as saying in a statement after the meeting by Hindustan Times. The meeting was also attended by top officials from Oil Marketing Companies (OMC) such as the Hindustan Petroleum (HP), Bharat Petroleum (BP), Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), and the CSC e-Governance Services India Limited (CSC).
Centre Looking To Leverage Network Of Ration Shops
There are 5.32 lakh ration shops whose main job is to distribute subsidised foodgrains to 80 crore beneficiaries covered by the National Food Security Act. The Centre is looking to leverage this network, by introducing the retail sale of the cylinders as well as loans and other financial services.
As per the above-mentioned report, the OMCs "appreciated" the Union government's proposition to retail LPG cylinders at FPS shops while also assuring that all necessary support will be provided in this regard in coordination with the interested state and Union territory (UT) governments. On their part, the State Governments stated that working with Common Service Centers (CSC) will help increase the viability of the ration outlets.
"On the proposal to offer financial services via FPS, representatives from the Department of Financial Services (DFS) said that it would provide the necessary assistance to the interested states and UTs," the statement further said, while highlighting that the Centre was planning to extend the MUDRA loans to all FPS dealers for capital augmentation.
Under the National Food Security Act, beneficiaries receive subsidised foodgrains from nearly 5,26,000 fair price outlets in India.