Improving PDS, streamlining working of FCI key priorities: Paswan

27 May 2014

Easing supply constraints through strengthening of foodgrain procurement, storage and its distribution through public distribution system (PDS) are among key priorities of the new government, food and civil supplies minister Ram Vilas Paswan said today.

Ram Vilas Paswan, minister of food and civil suppliesHe said while the government would ensure minimum support price (MSP) to farmers through effective procurement and efficient management of foodgrain stocks, it would also ensure an effective public distribution system and protection of consumers' interest.

Speaking to reporters after taking over as minister of food and civil supplies, the Lok Janshakti Party leader said streamlining the working of Food Corporation of India is key to making PDS more effective.

Improving public distribution system and creating adequate storage capacity for foodgrains will help contain rise in food prices, he said, adding that his ministry would work for providing maximum benefits to the public and the farmers

"I have just assumed charge. In the next one week, I will discuss important issues such as PDS, FCI godowns and ensuring minimum support price (MSP) to farmers with food and consumer affairs secretaries and then fix priorities," Paswan said.

"My priority will be to correct the deficiencies in public distribution system. We will strengthen the PDS," said Paswan.

While finance ministry and Reserve Bank of India are mainly tasked with the role of taming inflation (See: Jaitley, Rajan promise growth and low inflation), the solution to controlling food inflation, lies with the food and consumer affairs ministry, as suggested by a committee headed by Narendra Modi himself in 2011. 

It was also the Modi Committee that among other things suggested the unbundling of the operations of Food Corporation of India to make it more agile and effective. It wanted three different entities to handle the procurement, storage and distribution functions of FCI, with each arm perhaps enhancing its capability and efficiency through public-private partnerships.

The Modi Committee, which consisted of the chief ministers of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, had given 20 broad recommendations with 64 specific actionable points. The committee, appointed by the UPA government, wanted to keep all essential commodities out of futures trading in the commodity exchanges.

The committee had also recommended the setting up of a price stabilisation fund, a ministerial level coordination mechanism at the national and regional level (for coordinated policy making), priority sector lending to agri-marketing activities and increasing competition by promoting retailing by organised sector and cooperatives, among others.

It had also suggested an overhaul of the state-level Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) to liberalise agri-markets and time bound development of infrastructure to augment storage facilities, cold chain capabilities and agro-processing. 

Modi committee had also recommended the use of information technology (IT) in gathering real time information on production, import, procurement level, prices and availability of essential commodities such as food articles.

The committee also recommended strong legislation to deter practices such as black marketing and introduction of more reforms in the sector.

While some groundwork like IT linkage, had already started at the time of his predecessor, the pace f development has to be increased to reap the benefits.

Known in political circles for always being on the right side in politics, the 67-year-old Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader won the Hajipur seat in Bihar. Paswan is entering the Lok Sabha for a record ninth time.


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