Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on Monday presented his ministry's report card for last three years and asserted that the interests of farmers and consumers have been high on the agenda of Narendra Modi led Union Government.
While addressing a press conference here, he presented data to back his claim.
Talking about the major Reforms in Public Distribution System (PDS), he said that his ministry has taken a slew of steps, like: automation of fair price shops, direct cash transfer to food subsidy beneficiaries, aadhaar seeding in PDS, deletion of duplicate ration cards, and encouragement of cashless payments in PDS.
"Till today 2, 04,162 fair price shops have been automated for better targeting, transparency and accountability. Food subsidy is being directly credited to the account of the beneficiaries. At present Chandigarh, Puducherry and Dadra & Nagar Haveli (in few urban areas) are implementing this scheme," said Paswan.
He said that the government's decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for receiving subsidized foodgrains or cash transfer has helped to weed out duplicate, in-eligible, bogus ration cards and to enable rightful targeting of beneficiaries.
"Till today, 17.99 crore ration cards, which is 77.56 percent of total ration cards, have been linked with Aadhaar," said Paswan.
He said that due to the digitization, 2.33 crore ration cards have been deleted that had become ineligible.
"Based on this, the Government has been able to achieve rightful targeting of food subsidies of about Rs 14,000 Crore per annum."
The minister said that the government is keen on promoting digital and cashless payments at fair price shops (FPS).
"We announced detailed guidelines on December 7 last year to promote digital and cashless payments at FPS' and at present 50,117 FPS' are enabled for digital payments in 10 states and union territories," said Paswan.
He said the government is determined to reform the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and has adopted modern technology to store food grains and launched online depot system.
"The government has approved construction of steel silos with a capacity of to store 100 lakh metric tonnes wheat and rice on Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. Construction has been planned in three phases up to 2019-20," said Paswan.
The minister said the government has also approved the long pending demand of pension scheme and post retirement medical scheme in the FCI, and are effective from December 1, 2008 and April 1, 2016 respectively.
He informed that in order to support the farmers, the FCI has made a Five-year Action Plan for Uttar Pradesh (with focus on Eastern U.P.), Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam, where there were frequent complaints of distress sale of paddy and procurement system was ineffective.
He said to mitigate the plight of sugarcane farmers, the government has directly credited Rs.4305 crore to about 32 lakh sugarcane farmers under soft loan scheme on behalf of sugar mills.
"Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP) has achieved historical success as supplies of ethanol during the ethanol season 2015-16 have reached record level of more than 110 crore litres. Under the Performance based production subsidy scheme, Rs 525 crore has been released so far," said Paswan.
He said the government abolished levy system for paddy procurement, which helped farmers and created a buffer stock of 20 lakh metric tonnes of pulses, which will benefit the consumers.
Talking about the consumer protection initiatives, the minister informed that new Integrated Grievances Redressal Mechanism portal (INGRAM) (http:/consumerhelpline.gov.in) has been registering grievances online 24x7.
"Consumers can lodge complaints through all India Toll-free number 1800-11-4000 and also through a short code 14404, with the help of call centre agents or registering complaints online by accessing the portal," said Paswan.
He said the government was committed to protect consumers from misleading advertisements.
"The consumers can register complaints about misleading advertisements on Grievances against Misleading Advertisement (GAMA) website http://gama.gov.in."
He said that the government has also taken other digital steps to protect the rights of the consumers.
"An Online Consumer Mediation Centre (OCMC) for e-commerce complaints was launched in December, 2016 and is in the process of being operationalized. 'Smart Consumer' mobile app helps the consumer to scan the bar code printed on any packaged commodity and thereby know the details of the product, company etcetera and also to register a complaint."
The Minister said that the government has notified Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act, 2016 so that the consumers get standard and quality products and amended the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules for making it easier to do business.
He said that the BIS have brought out state-of-the-art new version of the Building Code, namely, National Building Code of India 2016.
"The provisions on use of innovative materials and technologies will give fillip to the objectives of Housing for All by 2022 as envisaged by the Government of India. The provisions on information and communication enabled buildings will facilitate implementation of the vision areas of Digital India Campaign," said Paswan.
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