As the Cash Credit Limit (CCL) fiasco relating to wheat procurement threatens to put ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab in a tight spot ahead of the 2017 assembly polls, Shiromani Akali Dal’s otherwise media-shy Minister of Food and Civil Supplies Adaish Partap Singh Kairon spoke up Saturday and refuted reports of “missing foodgrains” in Punjab.
Armed with “facts and figures” and accompanied by S K Sandhu, the Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, and a battery of officials of Food and Civil Supplies department, Kairon said it was a “total imaginary statement” to say that foodgrain stocks had disappeared.
“This (saying that foodgrains were missing or had disappeared) is lack of understanding of the actual operations,” Kairon said as he made an exhaustive presentation on “real time” procurement and delivery of foodgrains, especially rice after paddy shelling, to the Food Corporation of India.
Kairon said the department was even ready to share the password and other required details of the foodgrain’s procurement and delivery management system with the banks in question so that they could see that there was no scope of foodgrains going missing.
In an hour and half long interaction with the media, Kairon stressed that the Centre owed more than Rs 26,000 crore (which includes an interest of Rs 18,074 crore) which Punjab incurred on procurement of grains for the Centre and which was to be paid to banks who advanced CCL. The said amount , he said, was the amount incurred towards costs such as transportation cost, labour cost and other costs incurred by the state government while procuring food grains for centre.
He said the amount due from the Centre was the result of balance amount due to “provisional cost sheet” prepared by the FCI and the actual costs incurred by the state.
Sandhu said that banks who advanced the CCL to Punjab were taking that “pending amount by the centre” as the one against the grains’ stocks in Punjab and hence an impression that “stocks were missing”.
He said out of 90 lakh tonnes of rice, “only 50 to 60 thousands of rice were left to be delivered to the Centre”.
Kairon said a joint committee constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and headed by Union Food Ministry Additional Secretary and also comprising Food Secretary Punjab was looking into the matter and a “final report” was awaited.
In its draft report, Kairon said, the committee had agreed to pay Rs 4300 crore towards transportation and labour costs. “But we want the money with interest since the amount is pending since 2003, the year since the issue has been hanging fire,” Kairon said.
Responding to a query, Kairon said he would not go into any political aspect.
Out of Rs 26,187 crore, Principal Secretary Sandhu said Rs 8113 crore was the principal amount and remaining Rs 18,074 crore was the interest amount.
Kairon and Sandhu said procurement was not at all a profitable proposition and the state found itself at the receiving end while procuring grains for the Centre. “For example, Pungrain has no other source of revenue. From where will it pay, if it is paid [by the FCI] less than what it incurred on procurement of grains,” Sandhu said.
Kairon said the issue relating to CCL would be sorted out in three to four days and payments would be released.
On April 18 meeting of banks, he said it was “internal meeting” of the banks.