This report on CSES study was published in The Hindu on 23.05.2020
Keralites relied heavily on the public distribution system to survive the COVID-19-induced lockdown, says a study by the Kochi-based Centre for Socio-Economic and Environmental Studies.
The survey found that 92% of the households with ration cards made purchases from ration shops during the lockdown, and 16% of them said they visited ration shops during the lockdown after a long gap.
Nearly all (98%) of the priority category cardholders (yellow and pink card-holders), 91% of the blue card-holders who get State subsidy, and 85% of the white card-holders, in the non-priority category, made purchases using their ration cards during the lockdown.
Of these, 21% of the non-priority sector card-holders said they had bought their PDS rations after a long gap.
Kerala was the first to get off the block to ensure universal PDS supplies during the lockdown. The survey called for strengthening the system in the post-lockdown scenario and getting more Central allocation of grains to meet the possible new demand from non-priority sector card-holders in the State.
The study was conducted online among 504 Kerala residents between April 28 and May 6. Twelve per cent of the respondents belonged to the priority category (yellow and pink cards); 22% to the blue card category, and 56% to the non-priority category (white cards). Ten per cent of the respondents did not have ration cards.
Back to grocery shops
The study also showed a falling dependence among residents on supermarkets. If in the pre-lockdown period 38% of the households used supermarkets or shopping malls, their percentage came down to 20 during the lockdown. An additional 15% of the households started buying from neighbourhood grocery shops during the period.
It is notable that even with severe restrictions on movements in place only 5% of the households depended on online/home delivery facilities, the study said. The switch from supermarkets and malls to neighbourhood shops was triggered by the restrictions on movement and increased safety consciousness, the study added.
While most respondents said they did not face a shortage of supply of cereals and pulses, many reported a considerable shortage of fish and meat.