Asking the states to streamline procurement, storage and distribution of foodgrains, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said on Thursday with 10 per cent improvement in efficiency Rs 7,000 crore (Rs 70 billion) can be saved every year.
"A 10 per cent improvement in efficiency could save Rs 7,000 crore.
"This will also reduce the cost to the exchequer while expanding the entitlement system as formulated in the Food Security bill," Ahluwalia said while addressing a conference here on 'Targeted Public Distribution System and Storage' in New Delhi.
The two-day conference, which saw participation of ministers and senior officials from all the states, was marked by brainstorming in the run up to the expected enactment of the government's ambitious Food Security Bill.
The Food Bill, pushed by United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, has been introduced in Parliament and is being examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food.
"We are on the verge of moving to a further stage with the Food Security Bill.
"However, a lot of work has to be done like modernisation of storage, increasing foodgrain production further and using latest technology for efficient distribution," Ahluwalia said.
He said the state governments will have to play a key role in all these steps.
"In the 12th Plan (2012-17) we should put in place a monitorable set of ideas to see how much progress we have met in the field of food security," Ahluwalia said.
"Besides increasing production even further, we also need to spread procurement and this is a very important aspect of food security.
"Eastern states will have to take special steps in this regard," the Plan panel deputy chief added.
He said use of end-to-end computerisation has led to elimination of bogus ration cards and with use of the Aadhaar unique national card the the distribution system could be built up further.
"Besides technology will ensure efficient management of the supply chain and grievance redressal," Ahluwalia said.
According to him, with the enactment of the Food Security Bill there will be an increase in the storage requirement.
"Every year some or the other TV channel go somewhere and find rotting grains. While some rotting could not be avoided in such a big country as ours, we have to develop storage capacity and also go for modern storage systems to ensure greater efficiency," he said.
Ahluwalia called upon the state governments to adopt a more flexible approach on the issue of land acquisition for developing silos and storage facilities.
"It is not unreasonable to say that state governments should not view this as a demand for land as in other issues.
Availability of land should not become a constraint," Ahluwalia said.
The Planning Commission will raise the issue with chief ministers of states during discussion for the next annual Plan, he said.
According to Ahluwalia, the recent government decision approving setting up of silos with capacity of 2 million tonne is a very positive step.
Image: Montek Singh Ahluwalia