States should plug PDS loopholes before food bill is enacted

New Delhi, Feb 7 (PTI) The Centre today asked stategovernments to plug loopholes in the public distributionsystem (PDS) and increase storage capacity before theenactment of the proposed National Food Security Act.

"There are loopholes in PDS. The effort is to solvebeforehand all the problems that may come while implementingthe proposed National Food Security Bill," Food Minister K VThomas told reporters after the food ministers conference ofnine northern states.

The state governments have been asked to address threecore issues -- PDS reform, stepping up storage units andsocial accounting of foodgrains sold via PDS, the ministersaid.

When asked about states'' response to Prime Minister''sappeal to reduce/waive off various taxes on essential fooditems, Thomas said, "States said they will come back to us onthis issue."

The minister said various ideas were exchanges at themeeting to contain prices of essential food items.

The Delhi government''s suggestion for setting up offarmers-based market in metro cities was welcomed by manystates.

For improving movement of foodgrains from producingstates to consuming states, Thomas said FCI''s zonalconsultation committee should be further strengthened.

Asked when the draft bill will be finalised, Thomas said,"NAC is working on it. The draft National Food Security billwill be placed before a empowered group of ministers and laterat Cabinet. My job is to keep ready all infrastructure andrequired foodgrains for the successful implementation of thebill."

Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC) hasproposed legal entitlement of subsidised foodgrains to 75 percent of the country''s total population.

The Prime Minister panel headed by PMEAC ChairmanC Rangarajan, which examined the NAC proposals, however,raised concern over foodgrains availability and suggestedproviding it to poor on a priority basis.

Currently, the government supplies subsidised rice andwheat through ration shops to 6.52 crore BPL families and 11.5crore APL families.

Detailing PDS reforms, Thomas said, "Computerisation ofration shops, use of global positioning system in trackingmovement of vehicles transporting PDS items and replacingration cards with smart cards are some of the reforms thatstates should work seriously on," Thomas said.

Keeping in mind the storage need that may arise with theimplementation of the proposed bill, the minister said thegovernment is aiming to boost storage capacity by 17 milliontonnes in the next 2-3 years.

Currently, the country has godowns with a capacity tostore about 42-43 million tonnes of foodgrains.

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