The Prime Minister’s office (PMO) has directed the agriculture ministry to come out with a time-bound action plan to usher in a green revolution in eastern India, with a special focus on improving production of oilseeds and pulses.
The PMO wants the ministry to get back within a month with a plan to push up oilseeds and pulses production so that self-sufficiency is achieved in these key crops by the end of the 12th five-year plan (2012-13 to 2016-17). The directions were issued during a review meeting of the department of agriculture held in the PMO recently.
The department has also been asked to undertake the cluster approach to improve production. It has been directed to identify 60,000 oilseeds and pulses clusters in the country. India’s domestic oilseeds and pulses production is well short of the annual demand, which leads to heavy imports and permanent dependence on global conditions. The country annually produces around 18-19 million tonnes of pulses, while the demand is over 20 million tonnes, necessitating an annual import of around 1.5-3 million tonnes.
In case of oilseeds, the country’s annual edible oil imports have almost doubled in the last four-five years as domestic production has remained stagnant at about 24-31 million tonnes. The country annually needs around 12-14 million tonnes of edible oils, but the domestic supplies are sufficient to meet less than half of this demand.
Dependence on imports has grown over the years because of changing consumption patterns and rising disposable incomes. So much so, many experts believe Indian consumers are subsidising oilseeds and pulses cultivation in Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Canada. To address this, the PMO has directed the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to develop in two years high-yielding varieties of pulses and oilseeds that can withstand high temperatures. Agriculture ministry officials said work was on to implement most of the PMO suggestions and they would give a status report.
The programme to expand the green revolution to eastern India was announced in the 2010-11 Budget. The ministry has initiated the programme in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Officials said the PMO wanted a progress report on it.
On food and consumer affairs, officials said the PMO had directed the food ministry and the Food Corporation of India to complete the work on creating an additional four million tonnes of storage capacity by the end of the financial year. This would be part of the food ministry’s ongoing initiative to create an extra 15 million tonnes of storage capacity in the next two years.
The ministry has also been asked to prepare the first draft of a regulator to check misleading advertisements. “The PMO has directed the consumer affairs ministry to prepare the first draft of such a regulator within a month and put in place a separate regulator in the next one year,” officials said.
...to push for more powers to states on schemes run by the Centre
The Prime Minister’s Office has planned to direct all ministries and departments to ensure greater involvement of state governments in schemes and programmes run by the Centre, by delegating decision-making power.
Officials said the work done in this direction by the agriculture ministry, which has made the state chief secretaries major authorities in taking important decisions related to programmes like the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, could act as model for delegation of such powers.
“We could write to all central departments and ministries to delegate decision-making powers more to states and subsequently to the panchayats,” officials said.
A meeting of the National Development Council, a body of the Centre and the states, is slated for October 15 and 16 to take up the approach paper to the 12th Plan. The issue of more powers to states in Centre-run schemes could be raised by states there.
Some states in their annual plan meetings with the Planning Commission have been raising the issue of giving them flexibility in the management of these schemes to meet local needs in line with resources.