Montek suggests PDS smart cards

Water, shelter, clean air and roads as important as food, he says

Addressing an interactive session on food security organised by Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bangalore Climate Change - Initiative and the Department of Planning, Ahluwalia said the Planning Commission would suggest smart cards for PDS all over the country.

Every beneficiary of the scheme would get a smart card. When the beneficiary swipes his card after getting food grain at subsidised rates from the fair price shop, the subside component would be credited to the supplier. “There is no scope for stealing of food grains once the smart card system is introduced. None can deny the beneficiary food grain,” Ahluwalia said.

On the proposed Food Security Act, Ahluwalia said that the planned Act would confer on the beneficaries the right to move the court if they were denied food grain. 

Ahluwalia said percentage of the population living in poverty had reduced down in the last few years. However, the quantity of food grains supplied through the PDS had not been reduced. The country needed a production-oriented solution to assure food security and tackle high inflation of food prices.

He also said that besides food, providing other basic necessities - health, clean water, shelter, road - was also important. Although incomes of the people had been increasing, the quality of water had been going down. The Planning Commission set the target of agriculture growth in the 11th five year plan at 4 per cent against 2 per cent in the previous plan. “However, he added only through effective measures to increase food production could achieve the growth.

Referring to the row over Bt brinjal, Ahluwalia felt there was no need of delaying its introduction to the market. If there were any issues concerned its safety they should be addressed immediately. If any experts needed some more time to verify the facts they should be allowed. But delaying its introduction would not help in any way.
“The people in the US have been consuming GM foods from many years. Their health has not been affected. Where is the need to worry?”, he asked.

Farming key to growth rate

Deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwaliais critical of many state governments which, he said, are concentrating more on launching subsidy schemes, rather than giving due attention to the agriculture sector.

 “I appeal to the civil society and the media to ask the State Governments what they have done for agriculture”, he said an interactive session on food security organised by Institute of Social and Economic Change, here on Saturday.

Ahluwalia said when Chief Ministers attend Planning Commission meetings in Delhi, they quote only their subsidy schemes, such monetary benefits for girl children. But they had not been able to address issues concerned to food production effectively.

Rationalisation of land holdings, distribution of quality seeds to farmers are State subjects. States should ensure that farmers were provided with quality seeds Even in agriculture research area, States were not doing enough. On an average, 30 per cent of posts in agriculture universities are vacant.

“Who has stopped the states from addressing these issues,” he wondered.

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