New Delhi: Concerned
that lower production of pulses and oilseeds due to a deficient
monsoon could hike their prices, the government is planning to
sell these two consumer items through the public distribution
system (PDS) that caters to a third of India's 1.12 billion
population to provide relief to this vulnerable section of
society, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister K.V. Thomas said.
"Pulses and oil seeds are a concern...we are planning how to
provide these items through the PDS," Thomas told IANS in an
According to Thomas, the government could start a scheme to issue
pulses through the PDS at a subsidy of Rs.20 per kg for both the
below poverty line (BPL) and the above poverty line APL (APL)
persons and may introduce a similar plan for edible oils.
"We want to provide these items at reasonable rates to the
consumers," Thomas said.
India produces around 17 million tonnes of pulses but also imports
4 to 5 million tonnes as the demand ranges between 21 and 22
million tonnes annually.
But the government is also concerned that there are loopholes in
the PDS' functioning and has asked the states to strengthen the
system so its efforts to buffer the common man against price rise
are not diluted. "We have asked the states to strengthen the PDS...unless
this is done, any move to protect the consumers against price rise
will not help," Thomas maintained.
He said the government is also concerned over the rising prices of
vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes and onions. "We are reviewing
the price situation constantly," Thomas said.
Speaking about the overall foodgrain production scenario, Thomas
said a 23 percent deficiency in the southwest monsoon has affected
sowing of the summer (Kharif) crop in states like Maharashtra,
Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.
Though Punjab and Haryana too have not received enough rains, the
grain bowls of the country would not suffer much as they are
better irrigated, Thomas said.
He, however, said there would be no impact of rain deficiency on
the overall foodgrain production.
In this, he is at variance with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar,
who has said the record 257 million tonnes of foodgrain production
in 2011-12, won't be possible this summer season due to deficient
Food and civil supplies once formed part of Pawar's portfolio till
they were hived off after he complained he was overworked.
Thomas also said the government has already issued additional an 5
million tonnes of foodgrain under the PDS for BPL families and 1
million tonnes for APL families to cushion them against high
The PDS, which caters to 18 crore families, consumes 55 million
tonnes of wheat and rice annually. In addition, sugar and kerosene
is also distributed through the PDS.
(Amit Agnihotri can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)