PDS grains were diverted to Bangladesh from West Bengal:Pawar

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New Delhi, Oct 16 (UNI)Giving a twist to the problem of scant supply of wheat and rice through the Public Distribution System (PDS) in West Bengal which led to a public uproar there, Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar today said foodgrains meant for fair price shops(FPSs) were diverted to Bangladesh causing a shortage in PDS supply.

" And, the Centre has asked the West Bengal government to plug the PDS leakages to ensure adequate supply to ration card holders belonging to Above Poverty Line (APL) category", Mr Pawar said adding that there was no reduction of allocation of grains fixed for the state.

" If someone is playing politics on this issue... I have nothing to say", asserted Mr Pawar at the sidelines of a function held at the Pusa Institute here on the occasion of World Food Day today.

Earlier, 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 that of rice from 20.29 lakh tonne in March to a mere 7700 tonnes in April for West Bengal. This led to non-availability of grains for APL card-holders who wanted to purchase foodgrains from the FPSs due to rise in prices in the open market. As the APL category people could not get their entitlement of grains, they went berserk and resorted violence at certain places.

However, the Central Food Ministry blamed the state government saying there was no reduction in allocations. But, the state government had also taken lesser stocks in the past months besides being complacent on the stealthy diversion of stocks to Bangladesh.

The minister also denied the CPI-M charge that there was low stocks in FCI godowns in West Bengal which led to inadequate supply to the PDS network.

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 some 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 effected by the Centre despite shortage of resources, he added.

Referring to the World Food Day, Mr Pawar said his government was committed to ensure not only the "Food Security of the country but also nutritional security ... keeping in view that ' the Right to Food' is akin to the 'Human Rights" of a citizen.

For maintaining food security ," we even went in for the import of wheat just to build the stocks for any contingency and has also strengthen the PDS system, he said.

He, however, said the area under wheat is likely to increase in the coming crop and the government was attempting to popularise two crops of paddy in the country.

The Centre has also undertaken the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna to enhance the foodgrains production and productivity. Under this Yojna, the states would be given a free hand to devise and implement their grain production schemes which will be provided 100 per cent grant by the Central government.

UNI

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