Crack down on hoarders: PM to states

Crack down on hoarders: PM to states

Manmohan Singh

Painting a grim picture of the country’s agriculture situation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday asked the people to prepare for a further rise in the prices of essential commodities due to the shortfall of 60 lakh hectares in the area under the paddy crop in the current kharif season following scanty rainfall.

He asked the states to revamp the Public Distribution System (PDS). He wanted  them to take all steps to prevent hoarding and black marketing and restrict the stockholding limits to check any possible artificial scarcity of food items.

He admitted that 141 districts were facing a drought. The prices of vegetables, pulses and sugar had gone up. He asked the state governments to prepare a contingency plan to deal with the situation “without any delay.”

Major rice-producing states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Assam were facing a drought. He said this might  take a heavy toll on the country’s staple foodgrain.

The prime minister—who addressed an emergency meeting of chief secretaries and agriculture ministry officials, convened to review the situation arising out of scanty rainfall—said the government “should not hesitate to take strong measures and intervene in the market” if the need arose and promised all help from the Centre.

He said paddy was the worst-hit crop due to the erratic monsoon with a shortfall of sowing in around 60 lakh hectares against last year’s total of 225.76 lakh hectares.

However, the government was in a position to ensure adequate availability of foodgrains in the drought-hit areas.

He said the country’s food stock was adequate due to a bumper crop in the past two years. As on August 1, the stock stood at 50 million tonnes (18.5 million tonnes of wheat and 31.5 million tonnes of rice).

The prime minister’s statement comes a day after the India Meteorological Department  said the average rainfall in the country had been deficient by 25 per cent during the period from June 1 to August 5.

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will convene a meeting of state agriculture ministers within a fortnight to review the situation. This is apart from the chief ministers’ conference convened by the prime minister for August 17.

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