States Urged to Prepare Roadmap for Successful Implementations of Proposed Food Security Legislation

Finance Minister, Shri Pranab Mukherjee has said that massive investment in the agricultural sector is needed as enhanced food production is must for the success of Food Security for all. Inaugurating the State Agriculture and Food Ministers Conference here today, Shri Mukherjee called for joint efforts by the Centre and States to modernize the PDS to make its reach more effective to the targeted people.

Addressing the conference, Shri Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture, said that States need to accept the challenge of producing more to meet the ever increasing demand of food grains. He said that procurement and distribution system should be further streamlined to ensure a successful rollout of Food Security Act.

The Agriculture Minister said that the critical issues in production, procurement, storage, movement and distribution should be addressed immediately so that when the Act is enacted, the system is ready to implement it efficiently and effectively. Shri Pawar impressed upon the States to remain vigilant on the price being paid to the farmers by the private traders. They should ensure electronic payment to the farmers selling their produce at procurement centers. The Minister also called for revamping of the marketing infrastructure to ensure continued agriculture growth and remunerative prices to the farmers.

Addressing the State Ministers’ meet, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Prof. K.V. Thomas said that trying to provide food security to all is one of the most ambitious social security programmes proposed by the government. The National Food Security Bill outlines the process of bringing in most vulnerable citizens to a safety net where they could take comfort in the guaranteed availability of food and nutrition.

He said that the States should identify the means to make food grains available to the needy sections of the population by preparing a joint roadmap towards this objective. It should include finding ways and means for increasing production, procurement, finding the effective ways of safeguarding and transporting the stock, identifying the right beneficiaries and adopting technology to provide the backbone for an efficient public distribution system.

Urging States to make efforts for increasing foodgrain production and procurement in their respective area, Prof. Thomas said decentralized procurement scheme was initiated to tackle the problem of regional disparities in production and availability of foodgrains and the results are definitely positive. He said that States like UP, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam have a large potential to improve procurement so that farmers and the general population can be helped immensely. The recent success in setting up more procurement centers by the State Governments in MP and Chhattisgarh shows that this can be done, he observed. He also complemented the State Government of Bihar which had taken a series of measures in this regard during the current Kharif season.

Prof. Thomas said that the Centre has taken a decision recently to introduce payment to farmers, whether for levy or direct procurement, compulsorily by cheque or account transfer to ensure that full MSP reaches the farmers. He requested the State Governments to implement this important measure in the interest of farmers.

Emphasizing end-to-end computerization of PDS, Prof. Thomas said efforts should be made for elimination of bogus beneficiaries from the system. Experiments like giving bar-coded vouchers, community involvement in monitoring and auditing should be encouraged. He said that States like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Puducherry, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh have set examples and role models in this area.

Highlighting recent initiatives made by the Central Government for the modernization of PDS, the Food Minister said his Ministry has been progressing steadily in its computerization programme to allow transparent monitoring and reporting on the stocks, movement and delivery schedules. Regarding the storage, the Minister said that though storage facilities and warehousing have been increasing and improving, there is still a lot to be done on this front. He said that some States have been leveraging the funds available from Finance Commission etc. to add storage capacity at the Fair Price Shop (FPS) level. The Centre has lunched schemes like Grameen Bhandaran Yojana and RIDF of NABARD which can be similarly used to create storage at intermediate levels. He requested the States to prepare a five year prospective plan to create intermediate storage capacity at the district, block, Gram panchayat and fair price shop level by leveraging existing schemes both at the Central and State level.

The two-day conference, which began here today was also addressed by Chairman of UIDAI, Shri Nandan Neilkani, Cabinet Secretary, Shri Ajit Seth, Agriculture Secretary, Shri P.K. Basu and Food Secretary, Dr. B.C. Gupta. It was followed by interactive sections with the Food and Agriculture Ministers of the States. Senior officials of various ministries also made presentations during the day.

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