THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Food and Civil Supplies Minister C. Divakaran has come out strongly against the suggestion of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) that the Union government withdraw from grain procurement, storage and distribution under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and outsource these to private operators.
FICCI makes the suggestion in a study report, which was released a few days ago.
In a statement here on Monday, Mr. Divakaran said the suggestion was against the fundamentals of the Essential Commodity Act and related legislation, which were meant to protect public interest, and the Constitution, which stood for ensuring food safety and security of all sections of society.
He described the suggestion for issuing food stamps in place of food subsidy as an unviable proposal, saying India could not be compared to developed countries where the stamps were prevalent.
Citing the case of Kerala as a consumer State which diversified agriculture into plantation and other cash crops based on Central policies and on the assurance given by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, that its food security would be ensured in return, the Minister said the State had put in place a Universal PDS. The understanding was that Kerala would produce cash crops for export, which would earn much-needed foreign exchange for the country, and the Centre, in turn, would meet the requirement of foodgrains. However, the assurance was not being complied with now following the introduction of the Targeted PDS and neo-liberal policies.
The Minister criticised the FICCI's stand that the food stamps should go with compulsory participation of adult members of BPL families in special sector schemes. This indirectly meant that those who were physically challenged or incapable of manual labour would have to starve.
He said the expansion of the retail sector did not bring down the price of a single item.