Claiming that the Bihar government has adopted a lackadaisical approach towards implementation of the Food Security Act in the state, Union Food and Public Distribution Minister Ramvilas Paswan today said it has availed only half of its foodgrains quota in the past three months.
Given that Bihar gets 4.69 lakh tonnes of foodgrains per month from the Centre for distribution to beneficiaries, it has procured only seven lakh tonnes out of its quota of 14 lakh metric tonnes in the past three months, he told reporters here during his first visit to Bihar after being appointed a Cabinet minister in the Narendra Modi government last month.
Charging the state government with insensitivity towards the BPL families and other beneficiaries of the food scheme, Paswan said that it has shown little inclination to procure its quota within extended period too.
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The Union minister criticised the state government for keeping out the Central agency – Food Corporation of India (FCI) – from procurement mechanism and doing so through its own warehouse – State Food Corporation (STC), and hinted that this decision could be behind delay in lifting the foodgrain.
Alleging that the Bihar government was not implementing the Food Security Act apparently due to delay in procurement of foodgrains as well as in distribution to the beneficiaries, he said that his department will set up a grievance redressal cell to deal with consumers’ problems.
Paswan harped on inadequate food storage infrastructure in Bihar with the FCI having 13 godowns with a capacity of 87,473 metric tonnes, and said that the central warehouse has taken ten more godowns on rent to expand its storage capacity even as the state’s food corporation has nine godowns with storage capacity of 58.459 metric tonnes.
He said that the FCI has hired on rent four private godowns – two in East Champaran and one each in Samastipur and Saran – which were in final stages of completion which will generate additional storage capacity of 45,000 metric tonnes.
The Union Food and Public Distribution Minister said bulk of rice and wheat meant for Bihar are stored in Punjab, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, but rued that the State Food Corporation has failed to put in place a monitoring mechanism for safety of its foodgrains stock and timely lifting of the same for consumption by the intended beneficiaries.
It was because of maladies in distribution system that the doorstep delivery of foodgrains has not brought desirable result for the consumers, Paswan said and laid emphasis on the need for setting up grievance redressal cell.
The minister said he would ensure that the phone numbers of the proposed grievance redressal cell is published for the benefit of the consumers whose complaints will be forwarded to the state government for disposal in expeditious manner.
Paswan said that the state government has been asked to set up food commission and its units in the districts and promised that nobody will be allowed to die because of hunger.
The Union minister also asked the state government to enhance foodgrains storage capacity from 5.39 lakh tonnes at present to meet storage requirement of 23.45 lakh tonnes and said that all bottlenecks, including red tape by government officials should be removed to expand storage capacity.
He praised Chhattisgarh’s Public Distribution System (PDS) model and said that his department was studying it and he will be going to Madhya Pradesh on June 28 next to take first hand stock of effective implementation of the Food Security Act in that state.
Paswan said he was also seized of the issue of payment of arrears to sugarcane farmers for which he had held meeting with seven-eight ministers and mill owners.