Pawar says no to SC directive on free grain

Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday virtually shrugged off the Supreme Court’s directive to dismantle the...

Written by Fe Bureaus | New Delhi | Published:August 20, 2010 2:34 am

Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday virtually shrugged off the Supreme Court’s directive to dismantle the rotting grain stock by distributing it to the poor for free,citing that was a task the government was not up to.

“The government cannot distribute grain for free,but is providing critical items such as rice and wheat at cheaper rates to the poor,” he said.

“We cannot distribute grain for free. The Antodaya Anna Yojna (AAY) is applicable to the poorest of poor,and not for all BPL families. We are buying wheat at Rs 16 a kg and distributing at Rs 2 a kg. In fact,under AAY,we are already doing what the court has directed us to do,” Pawar noted.

Last week,the Supreme Court had directed the government to distribute grain free to the hungry as a measure to overcome the storage problem. “Grain is rotting. You can look after your own people. As part of a short-term measure,distribute it to the hungry for free,” the court had observed. The court had passed the direction after hearing a PIL filed by the civil rights group People’s Union for Civil Liberties on corruption in public distribution system,besides rotting of grain in FCI godowns.

FCI,the nodal agency for grain procurement and distribution,has 57.8 million tonne extra stock at the start August against buffer norm of 31.9 million tonne. Record procurement of wheat and rice during last two years has been attributed to bumper production.

Besides the Supreme Court directives,Pawar has also expressed his reservation against the proposed National Food Security Act,which would guarantee distribution of subsidised food grains to poor families.

Pawar recently said that the government through FCI procures close to 30% of the total rice and wheat production in the country. “We cannot go beyond the current level of procurement as any increase in procurement would result in an increase in prices,” he had said.

Even the chairman of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council C Rangarajan has expressed reservation on universalisation of PDS because of inadequate grain production and procurement. On the proposed food security bill,Ranjaranjan had recently noted that despite the desirability of such an arrangement,it is an “impossible task” given the present level of production and procurement.

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