‘If the lifting is not at least 50 per cent, we will allocate the remaining quantity to those States where offtake is better'

States which do not lift their special allocation of food grains will lose their quota, warned Minister of State (Independent Charge) K.V. Thomas here on Wednesday.

In his meeting with the Food Ministers of seven States, the Minister said the lifting of 15 million tonnes of specially allocated food grains since January was only 40 per cent in these States. “I have told the State representatives that if the lifting is not at least 50 per cent, we will allocate the remaining quantity to those States where offtake is better.”

Reviewing the procurement of food grains and the storage capacity, the Minister asked the States to be ready for implementation of the proposed Food Security Bill. The Bill is likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.

The Food Ministers and Food Secretaries of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh were present.

Storage problem

Faced with the storage of a bumper harvest this year, the Minister emphasised the need for higher lifting of allotments under the targeted public distribution system. The Centre wants creation of storage spaces by faster movement of food grains and higher consumption. Since January, the Central government has allocated 5 million tonnes of food grains each for the below poverty and above poverty line categories. Another 5 million tonnes was allocated to 150 poorer districts on the orders of the Supreme Court.

The Minister sought to temper his warning with the assurance that if a State government required more food grains it would be allocated under various schemes. At the same time, he asked them to take measures to bring down damage of food grains during procurement, storage and transportation.

According to him, the damage to food grains had come down from 2.5 per cent in 2007-08 to 0.07 per cent this year.

The Minister pointed out that of the 73 lakh tonnes of food grains storage capacity approved under the Private Entrepreneurs Guarantee Scheme (PEG), 63 lakh tonnes worth of capacity has been sanctioned in the eight States. Punjab and Andhra Pradesh were asked to expedite the creation of extra storage capacity for 15.2 million tonnes of food grains.

At present the government has a storage capacity of 62.23 million tonnes of food grains as against burgeoning stocks at 65 million tonnes. As a result, a significant quantity is stored in the open.

Nilakeni's proposal

Making a presentation on IT for PDS and cash transfer for food, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilakeni proposed the setting up of a National Information Utility through Aadhar infrastructure with States as partners.

In answer to a question, Mr. Thomas said the Empowered Group of Ministers had postponed a decision on the proposal to export 2 million tonnes of wheat “as international price of the commodity has dipped”.

Most of the Ministers sought early settlement of their claims for procurement of food grains from the Food Corporation of India. Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh also requested for quick movement of surplus food grains to consuming States to free up storage spaces.