New Delhi, Oct 16 (UNI) Giving a twist to the problem of scant supply of wheat and rice through Public Distribution System (PDS) in West Bengal which led to a public uproar, Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar today said foodgrain stocks meant for fair price shops (FPSs) were actually diverted to Bangladesh, causing a shortage of PDS grains supply.
''The Centre has asked the West Bengal government to plug the PDS leakages to ensure an adequate supply to ration card holders belonging to Above Poverty Line (APL) category,'' Mr Pawar said.
Earlier, ruling CPI-M leader and Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat had accused the Centre of reducing the allocation of wheat from 98,112 tonnes to 49,040 tonnes in April and rice from 20.29 lakh tonne in March to mere 7,700 tonnes in April for West Bengal. This led to non-availability of grains to APL card-holders who wanted to purchase foodgrains from the FPSs since the rise of prices in open market. As the APL card holders could not get their entitlement of grains, they went berserk and resorted to violence.
However, the Food Ministry at the Centre shifted the blame to the state government, saying that there was no reduction in allocations.
But, the state government had also lifted lesser stocks in the past few months, besides being complacent on the diversion of stocks stealthily to Bangladesh.
Mr Pawar, also ruled out any bonus or rise in Minimum Support Price (MSP) of wheat for the coming crop as demanded by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as well as by farmer leaders.
''The rise of Rs 250 a quintal in MSP wheat is the maximum ever done by any preceding government at the Centre.... and the farmers are happy over the hike. Only a few people are politicking and shifting their weakness to the Centre,'' Mr Pawar said.
In the past three years, the rise in MSP of wheat has been around Rs 285-290 per quintal which was affected by the Centre despite resources crunch, he added.
To maintain the food security the Minister said ''we even went in for the import of wheat just to build the stocks for any contingency and has also strengthen the PDS system.
However, he said the area under wheat is likely to increase in the coming days and the government was attempting to popularise two crops of paddy in the country.
The Centre has also undertaken Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna to enhance the foodgrains production and productivity. Under this Yojna, the states would be given free hand to devise and implement their grain production schemes which will be provided 100 per cent grant by the Centre.