‘20-25% leakage even in states that have successfully implemented PDS’

Explaining the implementation of the National Food Security Act in different states, union minister of food and consumer affairs KV Thomas said: ‘Once the National Food Security Bill, 2013 was passed in Parliament, our focus has been on the modernisation and strengthening of the public distribution system (PDS) because even in those states where this system has proved to be successful, there is a leakage of 20-25%. There are two sectors - the priority and general sector. They (states) need to identify the priority sector after which rules and regulations need to be framed.’

‘Every state should have at least 4 months as PDS requirement for their godowns, for which we are giving them assistance in different forms like National Bank for Agriculture And Rural Developement(NABARD), The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and others. We have also moved to the law ministry for framing rules and regulations and it is in the final stage now. There is a proposal that there should be Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AYY),’ said the minister.

How successful has been the implementation of this act in been in the states? ‘Delhi has implemented it, Haryana has gone ahead, Rajasthan has moved ahead, I am told Punjab too is doing it out now and Maharasthra will too be implementing it. In states where it has been implemented, it is a success story. Once you implement the Food Security Act, it will remove all loopholes,’ said Thomas.

In order to aid the implementation of the act, the minister said: ‘There should be reasonable transportation charge which the government of India is prepared to share. This will be finalised in the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). We also suggested that the local bodies like panchayati raj institutions should play an important role in deciding the priority sector and social auditing.’

And what is his take on hike on consumer prices? ‘It is true that prices have gone up but it all depends on the maximum retail price (MRP). In the last five years, the MRP has doubled. You can’t have a market price below the MRP. By and large there is no scarcity in produce. The agricultural produce market committee (APMC) act should be amended so farmers can go straight to the market. The ministry has suggested that there should be small agricultural centres around cities. We should have better storage and transportation mechanisms as well.’

There are talks of linking Aadhaar with food security scheme. So how would his ministry go about achieving this? ‘Our stand from the very beginning has been that we want food security to be linked with Aadhaar and bank accounts but only after 90% of the people have Aadhaar and bank linkage. Otherwise what has happened with gas cylinders will happen here and in this case the number is much more. Every part of the country should have bank facilities. So it will take some time.’

And how has his experience been in the ministry? ‘When I took charge, the Centre’s storage capacity was 55 million tons and now it is nearly 80 million tons. Also our damages and losses were 2.7 % and now it has been reduced to 0.07 %. All Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns have been cleaned up so we know now what are the actual damages,’ said Thomas.
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