An expert committee will be set up to advice the government on procuring jowar and ragi for distribution under the Anna Bhagya scheme.
“We are seriously considering decentralised procurement of these foodgrains. That is why we need the guidance,” said Harsha Gupta, commissioner, Food and Civil Supplies. While the proposal is to provide ragi and jowar in districts where they are part of the staple diet, rice will continue to be distributed across the State, he said.
While rice and wheat are supplied partly by the Union government, the State government would have to buy jowar and ragi locally.
Mr. Gupta said that the committee would evaluate traditional methods of procurement such as levy, market intervention based on minimum support price and direct purchase from the market.
“Decentralisation of procurement and distribution of grain is a good idea,” said M.S. Sriram, visiting faculty, Centre for Public Policy, IIM, Bangalore. “Local procurement is more transparent than centralised methods, if coupled with a strong system of social audit. It is easier for the people to notice irregularities if they occur in their villages rather than in Bangalore or New Delhi,” he said.
He added that decentralisation would also reduce costs of transportation and can be tried through Panchayat Raj institutions. “The government could try this as a pilot project,” said Prof. Sriram.
Farm scientists argue that Karnataka grows enough of jowar and ragi for local consumption. B.D. Biradar, scientist and senior sorghum breeder of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Bijapur, said that at the yearly output of 10 lakh tonnes of rabi jowar and 15 lakh tonnes of kharif jowar in 10 districts, supply is adequate. “Jowar is the staple in an equal number of districts. If farmers are assured of a minimum price, then the area under jowar will steadily increase,” he said.
C.R. Ravishankar, ragi breeder in the Agriculture Research Station at Mandya, has a similar opinion. “Farmers in eight districts harvest around 15 lakh tonnes of ragi every year. That is enough to meet the demand in the old Mysore region under the present consumption patterns,” he said.