FROM THE INDIAN EXPRESS
The Union Food Ministry today told the Supreme Court that its suggestion on limiting food procurement to available storage facilities, if put to action, would hit the poor farmer and “drastically impact food security of the nation”.
In a 19-page affidavit, C Vishwanath, joint secretary in the Ministry, said: “If Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state government agencies that do the work of procurement were to limit procurement only to the extent of their storage capacities, it would mean that in years of peak procurements, when markets are not very favourable, many farmers may not be able to sell their produce… and… would be left… at the mercy of traders who may not pay adequate prices.”
The government said this would force it to go back on the assurance to farmers that “whatever quantities of foodgrains they wish to sell to the government at minimum support prices would be purchased by the FCI and the state agencies” provided quality specifications are met.“Absence of adequate returns or an assured guarantee from the government procurement agencies for purchase of foodgrains will dis-incentivise farmers from sowing these crops in future”. The affidavit went on to explain how the court’s suggestion would cause a “substantial shift to other non-food crops” in agriculture. “This would then drastically impact the food security of the nation,” the government said.
It would be best — “with a view to protecting the interests of farmers and thereby ensuring that food security of the country is not adversely impacted” — to augment “production and procurement” rather than limit food purchase to storage space, the government said.Procurement has gone up from 36.2 million tonnes in 2006-07 to 53.77 million tonnes as on September 4, 2010, the affidavit stated.
The bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma said it was “very happy to note the government’s comprehensive affidavit”. It asked senior advocate Colin Gonsalves to file a reply within a week. The case is posted for September 24. The Ministry refused to agree with another Supreme Court suggestion to “abolish” Above Poverty Line (APL) consumers from the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) and give surplus food to their BPL and AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana) counterparts.“A food security law is under consideration of the government. In the light of the existing stock position, allocations for BPL/AAY categories under the TPDS are not likely to be impacted by allocations to APL,” the government countered. It said TPDS allocation to APL is also “essential” to meet food security requirements in food-deficit and food-insecure states and areas.Besides, the government today declared its decision to push in, on an ad hoc basis, an additional quantity of 25 lakh tons of wheat/rice at BPL prices for the next six months. The allocation will start in a week, Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran told the court.
The government said AAY households include the “poorest-of-poor” and the scheme has been extended thrice to cover 2.5 crore BPL households — from potters to snake charmers to the terminally-ill to single women to primitive tribal households.
To the court’s suggestion that SC/STs should be part of AAY guidelines, the government said: “AAY is meant to serve the poorest of the poor families and does not include community-based identification of families”.
To the court’s view that 150 of the poorest districts in the country be allocated 35 kg of food grains at Rs 3 per kg, the government said the National Advisory Council has so far not mentioned any criteria for identification of the “most disadvantaged districts”.On the court directive to warn fake ration cardholders, the government said that 174.59 lakh bogus or ineligible ration cards had been deleted by states/Union Territories as per information on July 31, 2010.
25 lakh tons of grains at BPL prices
* Govt allocates 25 lakh tons of wheat/rice at BPL prices for next 6 months.
* A guarantee of ten years for assured hiring to private sector for construction of scientific godowns.
* Total capacity increase in last 2 years due to private sector participation — 55.5 lakh tons.
* Capacity utilisation has gone up from 74 per cent to 91 per cent.
* Food grains damaged in FCI godowns: 2,689 tons wheat, 9,647 tons rice, 82 tons paddy.
- Distribute foodgrains at very low or no cost, Supreme Court tells Centre (thehindu.com)
- It was an order, not suggestion: court (thehindu.com)
- It was an order, not a suggestion: court (thehindu.com)
- ‘Foodgrains left to rot in sun and rain’ (thehindu.com)
- More foodgrains for poor at BPL rates (thehindu.com)
- Wheat Rots in India as World Prices at 2 Year High (abcnews.go.com)
- Indian poor starve while grain rots in depots (rt.com)
- “Let not grains rot in godowns while millions cry for food” (thehindu.com)
- Order on free grain to poor can’t be executed: Manmohan Singh (thehindu.com)
- Free grain to poor cannot be implemented, says Manmohan Singh (thehindu.com)
- Wheat rots in India as world prices at 2 year high (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Massive wheat stockpile rots in India (theglobeandmail.com)
- Wheat rots in India as world prices at 2 year high (sfgate.com)
- Downpours Wash Away India’s Rainy-Day Rice Supply (online.wsj.com)