May 1, 2017 12:24:33 am
Madhya Pradesh Agriculture Minister Gaurishankar Bisen has reportedly said in a closed-door government meeting that 90 per cent of the wheat procured for distribution in his state through the PDS system is diverted illegally. The statement attributed to Bisen, who refused to elaborate on it later, comes at a time when there is talk about significant increase in wheat production in Madhya Pradesh.
On Friday, at a meeting of the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices, a central body within the Union agriculture ministry in Bhopal to discuss the minimum support price (MSP) for 2017-18, Bisen reportedly said there was a need to stop recirculation of PDS wheat because 90 per cent of it is sold again in mandis, thereby artificially increasing production figures. Officials from seven states attended the meeting, where the minister also purportedly said that nearly half the PDS wheat is unfit to eat.
When contacted, Bisen told The Indian Express: “The meeting was meant to deliberate on MSP and I provided my insight.” He refused to elaborate on his comment about illegal diversion of wheat, which has brought focus on leakage through ration shops.
Madhya Pradesh’s wheat production for 2017-18 is expected to be 213 crore metric tonnes. Of this, 65 lakh to 85 lakh metric tonnes is the procurement target. The procurement window is from March 15 to May 15. Of the procurement target, nearly 28 lakh metric tonnes is sold through ration shops across the state.
Chairman of Madhya Pradesh State Civil Supplies Corporation, Hitesh Bajpai, admitted there was diversion of PDS wheat to mandis but the proportion would be less than 20 per cent. The minister’s assumption was wrong, he said.
Around March 15 every year, the MP government starts buying wheat from farmers that first goes to government godowns, then moves to either the PDS or is sent for state and central schemes like midday meal plan. At PDS shops, the wheat is sold at a subsidised rate of Re 1 a kg.
Bajpai said he had heard that traders paid Rs 5 to buy a kilo of wheat from PDS stores.
The diverted wheat is sold in mandis at the prevailing price or it makes its way back to the government at the MSP. Therefore, the wheat illegally diverted from the state system makes its way back at an inflated price. This also gives rise to the prospect of inflation in production figures.
Sources in the state agriculture ministry confirmed that the minister made the comments attributed to him.
The Congress pounced on Bisen’s purported statement and accused the BJP government of fudging wheat production figures to get central awards. “We have always wondered about the abnormal agricultural growth rate in MP, especially after repeated complaints from farmers about crop failure, their inability to repay loans and suicides,” said Congress spokesman K K Mishra. The Congress has sought a white paper on details of production.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.