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Ministry to hold talks with states over food Bill imbroglio

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As states, irrespective of their political affiliations, raise objections to the proposed Food Security Act, the on Thursday said it would analyse all suggestions and refer these to a standing committee.

It has also decided to hold separate discussions with all states to find a workable solution for proper implementation of the programme. The Food Security Bill, which proposes to provide cheap grains to 63 per cent of the population, is being discussed by a parliamentary standing committee. The Bill has been criticised by some states, on the grounds that it would increase their financial burden.

A few states, including West Bengal and Tripura, have called upon the central government to provide cheap grain to 100 per cent of the population and bear the entire financial implication of the move.

“We will continue having discussions with states on the Food Security Act, as their cooperation is foremost in implementing it,” food minister told reporters after a two-day meeting of state food and agriculture ministers. He is expected to visit West Bengal next month to discuss issues related to foodgrain procurement in the state.

The minister said a nationwide programme to create an additional storage mechanism would be suitably altered to address concerns of states like Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, whose grain production has risen sharply in recent times. “The PEG (private enterprise guarantee) scheme will be re-distributed to enable non-traditional grain-producing states get adequate storage facilities,” Thomas said.

The government is adding 15 million tonnes of additional storage space in different parts of the country to boost the country’s grain-storing capacity, currently at 62 million tonnes. The distribution of storage is based on three-year average production or procurement of grains.

Thomas said to facilitate faster movement of foodgrains through railways, the food ministry was working on setting up a special purpose vehicle in association with the Indian Railways. This would work towards the creation of dedicated corridors for transportation of grains and storage facilities.

On the demand of a few grain-producing states like Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh to allow more export of wheat and rice, he said the food ministry was in favour of the move. “Currently, we have allowed the export of one million tonnes of wheat and two million tonnes of non-basmati rice, of which 300,000 tonnes of wheat has already been shipped. Hence, as requested by some producing states, we might consider more exports.”

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