Chawal Utsav

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Chhattisgarh government has initiated a unique festival in the state known as Chawal Utsav (Rice Festival). It is celebrated on the 7th of every month.

Rice is the staple food of Chhattisgarh. Earlier, the State was plagued with scarcity of food grains due to artificial shortages created by middle men. Government funds were siphoned for personal benefits.

The state government in order to check the twin problem of death due to starvation and corruption started the process of revamping the PDS department. With the help of National Information Centre (NIC), Raipur different processes were computerized and were made web based to make the system real time.

Modern IT infrastructure like high speed internet connection, VSAT at procurement and distribution centers and Global Positioning Systems for the trucks carrying ration were installed. At some remote places the IT infrastructure could not be installed. A motorcyclist commutes everyday between these centers and the nearest block headquarter.

A toll free helpline, to get information and register complaints about the system has been set up. Now the beneficiaries also have the option of getting details of the truck and the ration being carried to FPS of their locality on their mobile phones through SMS sent to registered users.

For this utsav, ration is carried in special yellow coloured trucks of the department. Rice and wheat are sold at Rs. 2/kg to Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty line (APL) and at Rs. 1/kg to extremely poor people with a maximum limit of 35kg per ration card. Similarly, the beneficiaries get sugar and kerosene at highly subsidized rate and iodized salt for free. The government is also planning to distribute gram (chana) at subsidized rate to the people.

A typical Chawal Utsav is a very special day for the people. A small village haat can also be seen at some places. The government also exploits the day to implement other welfare activities. Polio vaccinations are given on that day. The Village Anganbadi Kendra also sees lot more people coming in than on usual days.

The PDS model of the state of Chhattisgarh is now considered as the best in India and is a role model for other states. Secretaries and government officers of different states and also media people have visited and documented it. The CGSCS has won several awards in the last four years for governance, best practices, agriculture, consumer protection, best project and paddy procurement.

The information has been gathered by the author by studying the PDS department and through extensive field tours.

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