‘Fears of unsustainability of food scheme unfounded`

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 18:35

New Delhi: After steering the ambitious Food Security Bill through the Cabinet, Food Minister K V Thomas
says fears about unsustainability of the subsidised foodgrains
scheme are unfounded.

He also feels there will be no shortage of foodgrains for
the scheme at least for the next 30 years.

Denying that the Food Bill has been brought in a hurry in
view of the coming assembly elections in five states, he said
the legislation is "well conceived" and was drafted after
two-and-a-half years of meticulous exercise.

On apprehensions raised by Agriculture Minister Sharad
Pawar and others regarding the financial implication and
sustainability of the scheme, Thomas told PTI "the issue was
discussed at least nine times in the EGoM (Empowered Group of
Ministers) before finalisation of the draft".

He refuted charges that the Bill has been rushed through
with an eye on the forthcoming assembly elections, that
included the most populous state Uttar Pradesh.

Thomas said the proposed legislation was part of UPA
election manifesto during the 2009 polls and President
Pratibha Patil had also made a mention of it during her
address to the joint session of Parliament in June 2009.

"The proposed legislation aims at ensuring food security
for the poor in the rural and urban areas and imputing any
political motive to it is not justified," Thomas said.

The Food Bill has been prepared following all set norms
and after wide consultations within the central government,
all state governments, NGOs and people from cross section of
the society, he added.

The Union Cabinet had on Sunday approved the National
Food Security Bill, 2011, considered a pet project of Congress
President Sonia Gandhi. It aims at giving legal entitlement of
cheaper foodgrains to 63.5 per cent of the country`s
population.

In rural areas, up to 75 per cent of the people will be
covered by the Bill out of which at least 46 per cent will be
in priority sector. In the urban centres, it will cover up to
50 per cent of the populace out of which at least 28 per cent
will be in the priority sector.

Thomas provided details of the scheme considered as
flagship project of the UPA government after NREGA, to allay
fears of a section of population.

On whether there would be enough foodgrains available to
sustain the scheme, Thomas answered in the affirmative.
He said as per present calculations, the scheme would
need 63 million tonnes of foodgrains which could be easily
achieved considering the foodgrains output projections given
by the Union Agriculture ministry for the next 30 years (till
2039-40).

The Food Minister said as per the projections, the
country would produce over 187 million tonnes of wheat and
rice in 2011-12 (crop year July-June). This is expected to go
up to 189.9 million tonnes in 2012-13, 192.02 million tonnes
in 2013-14 and 253.24 million tonnes in 2039-40.

The scheme aims at procuring around 30 per cent of the
foodgrains produced which would be not a problem in view of
the official foodgrains production figures, he said.

"There would be no need to go shopping for the rice and
wheat in the international markets to feed the scheme," the
minister asserted.

Besides, the government has allocated an additional Rs
400 crore to promote paddy cultivation in the Eastern states,
he said.
On storage capacity, the minister said the country has
warehousing facilities to accommodate 63 million tonnes at
present.

Another 7 million tonnes additional storage capacity
would be available with the government by the end of this
year, he said adding by end of 2012 another 8 million tonnes
potential would be created.

Besides, the Planning Commission has approved building
silos to store 2 million tonnes of foodgrains.

"So, by 2015, the country would have storage capacity of
82 million tonnes of foodgrains," Thomas said.

The Food minister said following corrective steps
storage losses of foodgrains has come down to less than 1 per
cent in 2011-12 as compared to 2.5 per cent about 5 years ago.
Thomas said to ensure success of the scheme, the Public
Distribution System (PDS) is being improved through programmes
such as point-to-point computerisation and continuous campaign
to delete bogus ration cards.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - 18:35

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