The Food Ministry has taken several major decisions to deal with the drastic situation arising out of the lockdown implemented to prevent the Coronavirus epidemic. Taking care of safeguarding the food security of a country of 130 crores of population, the food ministry is working 24 hours these days. Union Minister for Consumer and Food, Ram Vilas Paswan is in constant touch with the top officials of his ministry besides the chief ministers of the states.
Referring to government stock, Paswan said, “The government has enough food grains to meet the needs of the people for the entire year”. Strict arrangements have been made to curb hoarding and black marketing. On these issues, our National Bureau Deputy Chief Surendra Prasad Singh had a detailed discussion.
In the lockdown, food grains have been announced for everyone. Is there a sufficient stock of grains in government warehouses?
The government has sufficient stock of food grains for the whole year. As if now, there are 544 lakh tonnes of food grains in government warehouses. It has 306 lakh tonnes of rice and 238 lakh tonnes of wheat. Whereas, the ration system requires 60 lakh grains every month. The main crop of Rabi season is going to be the bumper yield of wheat, the purchase of which will start next fortnight.
How many grains will be needed in the government’s plan to give five kg of free grain for the next three months? How much grain is being raised by the states?
Wheat and rice are given at a very subsidized rate to the country’s 81 crore population every month. Also, to reduce the effects of lockdown, the government has decided to give five kg of free grain to every person for the next three months. All states have been directed to raise their share of food grains and distribute them to consumers. But some states are still delaying in raising grain.
What measures has been taken by the government to simplify the process of selling food grains in the open market?
The process of purchasing food grains from FCI has been greatly simplified. Under this, FCI has abolished the tender process with immediate effect, so that any private business establishment or any institution with a large consumer establishment can buy grain from here at a fixed price.
Some states have demanded rice in place of wheat. Is there a sufficient rice stock?
111 lakh tonnes of rice and 11 lakh tonnes of wheat are needed under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. In this, four states Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Chandigarh have demanded wheat instead of rice. But despite this, if someone asks for additional rice instead of wheat, the government has enough stock.
How much grain is being sent daily from FCI to other states. How many workers are employed for this?
A total of 70 to 80 thousand workers of the corporation are working all day. The number of contract workers is very high. Since the lockdown have been implemented, more than 2 million tonnes of grain has been loaded and transported by 721 rail racks.
Provision has also been made to give pulses with grains. Who is supplying pulses?
Pulses are to be supplied by the government agency NAFED. A provision has been made to give one kg of pulses to each family for the next three months under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.
There are reports of hoarding, black marketing and inflation from many parts of the country. Has government made some provisions for this?
Strictness is being done under the Essential Commodities Act. Use of masks and sanitizers in defense of COVID-19 has increased. That is why it has been put in the list of essential items. Their prices have also been determined. Strict legal action will be taken to sell more than the fixed price. Three layer masks have been priced at Rs 10 and 200 mg sanitizer has been priced at Rs 100. States have been asked to take a strict action to curb inflation.
What is the preparation of wheat acquirement by government agencies?
All the wheat producing states are ready for this. There are plans to purchase wheat in three phases in Punjab and Haryana. Farmers and agricultural workers have been freed from the lockdown. States are preparing several procurement options at their level.