New Delhi, Apr 30 (UNI) Allaying fears of food crisis in view of spiralling inflation, the Government today announced that it has already procured a record 134 lakh tonnes of wheat and 229 lakh tonnes of rice while assuring that enough foodgrain stock is available to supply to the PDS system.
Replying to the debate on the Finance Bill 2008-09 which was returned to the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister P Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha that the government will achieve the target of 150 lakh tonnes of foodgrains in the country.
''Let me assure you we will have enough foodgrain stock to supply to the PDS system and create a buffer stock also.
Availability will be ensured. There should be no doubt on that account,'' he added.
''We have had good harvest, procurement and stocks for supply to the PDS system. This year the supply will be 70 lakh tonnes more. During NDA's regime, it was 239 lakh tonnes but now it is 313 lakh tonnes,'' he added.
Asking the State Governments to ensure fair distribution of the stocks made available by the Centre, he said according to the latest report by the Standing Committee on Food Procurement, more than 40 per cent stock was diverted and did not reach the intended consumers.
''The States have to ensure that the poorest of the poor get the PDS supply... diversion of food is the biggest menace in the system,'' he added.
Dismissing charges that the country was facing a ''fertilizer famine'', the Finance Minister said the country was producing enough fertilizers to export.
''The UPA gives priority to agriculture and it will do nothing to hurt the farmers... If that means to import fertilizers, increase its production or subsidy, it will be done. Fertilizers will be made available to the farmers,'' he asserted.
The Minister said the Government will take more monetary, fiscal and supply measures to check inflation.
About outsourcing Income Tax Department work, the Minister said there was no such intention.
''Only issue of pan cards and collection of Returns is being done by outsiders otherwise all the work is with the department,'' he clarified.
Mr Chidambaram said all the states were getting enough money from the Centre to register a revenue surplus of Rs 73,886 crore.
''The states are getting record amount of money from the Centre now. This year we have given more than Rs 1,78, 000 crore and additional grants of Rs 1,24,746 crore to the states... The deficit is only 2 per cent,'' he announced.
Supporting the Leader of the Opposition Jaswant Singh's demand for a ''change of mindset'', the Finance Minister said the UPA was not only aiming for growth but ''inclusive growth''.
''Growth is just a starting point for us. It is an imperative...
We are aiming at inclusive growth and I hope that UPA takes that to a new level. We are the second fastest growing economy and I hope we become the first and the fastest,'' he added.
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