PDS overhaul must for Food Security Act's success: Pawar

Agri Minister doubts existing mechanism enough for roll out

PDS overhaul must for Food Security Act's success: Pawar

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday reiterated that augmenting grain production and overhaul of the Public Distribution System were critical to implementation of the Congress-led UPA Government’s ambitious National Food Security Bill.

“I will be failing in my duty if I do not emphasise the fact that the Food Security Act will never succeed in achieving its goal in letter and spirit, if we try to push it through the existing PDS apparatus,” he said, adding that a “massive process re-engineering” was required to make the PDS “compatible with the goals of the NFSB and modern day requirement”.

Pawar, perceived as a critic of NFSB, sought to play down his opposition to the Bill being pushed hard by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

He said that time had come for the government “to ensure that each and every citizen of the country gets two square meals a day”.

“My only concern is whether the existing mechanism is compatible with the spirit of the Act,” he said, addressing a conference of food and agriculture ministers of the states and union territories in New Delhi.

The conclave was convened by the Ministry of Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs to discuss ways to strengthen the Targeted Public Distribution System and enhance storage capacity before the NFSB is passed by Parliament.

Pawar, who heads UPA-constituent Nationalist Congress Party, has been airing reservations about the NFSB – a legislation that the Congress had promised in its manifesto ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha during the recent winter session of Parliament.

Limitations

“At this juncture, we have serious limitations on all fronts like capacities of mandis, financial position of state agencies, manpower, quality inspection mechanism and storage infrastructure.

Even at this current level of operation, the railways are finding it difficult to handle the movement (of foodgrains),” Pawar said.

He also pointed out that the Centre and State Governments would have to launch a massive programme to increase foodgrain production without compromising the production of other crops and it would require large scale investment in irrigation, power, fertilisers and seeds.

He urged the State agriculture ministers to accept the challenge of producing more to meet the ever-increasing demand and the food ministers to streamline the procurement and distribution system to ensure a “successful rollout of the second green revolution and the Food Security Act”.

The Congress upholds the Bill as the one that would bring in a paradigm shift in the Government’s efforts to ensure food security – from the current welfare approach to a right based approach.

It provides for food and nutritional security for entire life cycle of the individuals covered by it.

The Bill seeks to provide the priority households in both rural and urban areas with seven kg of foodgrains per person per month and the general households with not less than three kg of foodgrains per person per month.

The price of foodgrains for priority households will not exceed Rs 3 per kg rice, Rs 2 per kg wheat and Rs 1 per kg of coarse grains.

For the general households, the prices of wheat and coarse grains would not be more than 50 per cent of the minimum support price and that of rice not more than half of the derived minimum support price.

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