Centre to build godowns under MNREGA to roll out food law

Centre to build godowns under MNREGA to roll out food law

To ensure success of its new food laws, government today allowed construction of intermediary godowns under employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA and has allocated Rs 450 crore for creating 15 lakh tonne of storage capacity across the country by March-end.

The decision has been taken in view of slow progress in the construction of intermediary godowns by state governments at a time when the government is in a hurry to roll out the ambitious food law in all states ahead of the general elections next year.

The Centre has decided to set up intermediary godowns, which are generally created at block level, for efficient and smooth distribution of foodgrains via PDS and check leakages.

"After toilets and anganwadi kendras, we have decided to construct intermediary godowns for storage of PDS foodgrains under the MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act)," Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters.

The Schedule 1 of the MNREGA will be amended to include construction of intermediary godowns. The guidelines will be issued in this regard soon, he said.
Addressing a joint press conference with Food Minister K V Thomas, Ramesh said: "About Rs 450 crore will be spent this fiscal for construction of intermediary godowns with a capacity of 15 lakh tonnes foodgrains in states."

The state governments are required to provide land, while the Centre will bear the entire construction cost. States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharasthra, Gujarat are expected to benefit maximum, he said.

Currently, foodgrain is distributed directly from FCI depots to ration shops, resulting in 25-30 per cent leakage and pilferage. Setting up of intermediary godowns will check this problem, Ramesh said.

The construction of permanent structures like godowns and toilets has been taken under MNREGA as the rural job scheme has been blamed for doing only "kuccha (temporary) work and not pucca (permanent) work," he added.

Ramesh said intermediary godowns are necessary in northern and eastern states as "PDS leakage is higher, while coverage is less. Whereas southern states have better PDS".

Foodgrain leakage is directly proportional to distance travelled from godowns to ration shops, he added.

"We wish states take initiative and provide land for construction of land. We will write to them on this issue soon," Ramesh said, adding that there are 6,612 blocks in the country and an average storage capacity of 44,000 tonne needs to be created for efficient PDS.

On creating godowns for foodgrains storage, Thomas said construction of storage facility and strengthening PDS are two key factors for successful implementation of the food law.

"The new initiative under MGREGA will be very helpful for creating intermediary godowns in states," he said.

The state governments have been asked to set up intermediary godowns since 2009 but not much progress has been made due to procedural hurdles in getting loans from NABARD, he explained.

Currently, the government has storage capacity of 76.79 million tonne foodgrain. The storage capacity will further be enhanced under various schemes.

The new food laws, considered to be game-changer by the Congress party, aim to provide legal right over cheaper foodgrains to the country's 67 per cent of the population.

Delhi, Uttarkhand, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh have announced its implementation. Some states are preparing for the roll out of the law.

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