Pranab backs Nilekani on PDS reforms - The Times of India NEW DELHI: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee took on the food ministry and publicly backed UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani's proposal to set up a new independent agency manned by professionals to computerise the public distribution system (PDS) as part of the reforms agenda and use the Aadhaar number as a base for the changes. Mukherjee was speaking at the meeting of state agriculture and food ministers in Delhi on Wednesday. TOI had earlier reported how the food ministry was ignoring the report of the committee chaired by Nilekani on computerisation of PDS and was rolling out a programme dependent more on the existing National Informatics Centre's network. Mukherjee, in a veiled criticism of the food ministry's move, specifically referred to Nilekani's proposal, saying, "The National Food Security Bill 2011 specifically refers to the need for TPDS reforms to leverage Aadhaar for unique identification... the Task Force on Direct Transfer of Subsidies has recommended the creation of a National Information Utility for the computerization of PDS - the Public Distribution System Network (PDSN). Leveraging Aadhaar is one of the critical components in reforming the PDS." Nilekani's report had suggested that a public distribution system network should be set up as a separate agency to oversee computerisation and it should be staffed with professionals from inside and outside the government. It had taken cue from an earlier finance ministry report which suggested such special purpose vehicles be set up by the government to oversee e-governance where multiple layers of bureaucracy and agencies, including those in the state and Centre, are involved. A considerable part of Mukherjee's speech was spent on elaborating his belief in UID as the basis for reforms in the PDS as it gears up to meet the requirements of the National Food Security Bill. "Use of the Aadhaar number in PDS will reduce duplicates, fakes and ghost beneficiaries in PDS databases which will result in reducing wastage and diversion in the system. Portability of benefits in PDS is of critical importance due to the migrant nature of India's poor population who are the most important targets of the Food Security Act. An Aadhaar enabled system makes access to PDS benefits portable across a state and also the country," he said.