Denying having any reservations on food law, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Tuesday the successful implementation of the world’s largest social welfare scheme should be ‘enshrined’ on strong domestic production and not on imported grains.
Since the food subsidy is almost Rs 1,000 per person per year, there is a need for complete re-engineering of the existing public distribution system so as to ensure each and every grain reaches the right beneficiary, he said.
The ambitious food law -- considered as 'game-changer' by the Congress-ruled UPA government and described by the opposition parties as 'political gimmick' ahead of 2014 general elections -- aims to provide a legal right over cheaper foodgrains to about 82 crore (820 million) people.
"A lot has been talked about my reservations on the food security law.
“There is no question of having any reservations for a social security programme covering the poor and needy sector of the society," said Pawar, while addressing the state food ministers conference on food law.
Stating that implementation of the world’s largest social security programme is a monumental task, he said, "I am of the firm opinion that we must enshrine food security on the strong foundation of domestic production and not on the imported grains."
He said high domestic production of foodgrains will obviate the need for imports that may distort international prices.
He urged the state governments to address five aspects -- production, procurement, transportation, storage and distribution.
On improving distribution, Pawar said, "Distribution side involving procurement, transportation, storage and distribution is an extremely voluminous and multi-layer system posing tremendous challenge to the administration.
“This makes it vulnerable at every stage."
It would not be a good idea to have a central tailor-made approach for re-engineering the distribution system.
"But each state must take up the agenda in a mission mode to implement the food security act in its true spirit," he suggested.
The states should gear up to plug loopholes with the use of appropriate and innovative technology as the incentive for foodgrains diversion from ration shops would be very high because of the huge difference between the market price and the issue price, he added.
That apart, Pawar urged states to put extra effort at all stages of operation in ensuring that beneficiaries get quality foodgrain.
Noting that the country has achieved self-sufficiency in foodgrains because of strong procurement machinery, Pawar said the future demand of food can be met only if farmers are assured of the support price and procurement, especially in eastern states.