Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Tuesday said the government is finally ready to provide fortified rice and wheat through Public Distribution System (PDS). He also said a note on Rs 8,000 crore bailout package for sugar industry has been sent to the Cabinet."We had a discussion with Niti Aayog on adding nutrition to rice and wheat and we have decided to implement it phase-wise first for the families under the Antyodaya Yojana, students living in hostels and for the mid-day meals at Anganwadi centres."The department will take a decision and come out with the details in the next 3-4 days," Paswan said while highlighting achievements of his ministry in the last four years.He also said his ministry has submitted the Rs 8,000 crore bailout package for the sugarcane farmers to the Cabinet, which will help partially recover Rs 22,000 crore dues by the mill owners to the farmers."The note on Rs 8,000 crore support has gone from us. Now the Cabinet will take a decision," he said. The Union Cabinet is likely to meet on Wednesday.The package includes a provision of Rs 4,500 crore as loans to increase ethanol capacity in the country which will help divert surplus sugarcane to produce ethanol to help check falling price of sugar and to also facilitate timely payment of sugarcane dues to the farmers, he said.The package also includes creation of buffer stock of 30 lakh MT for which the money will be transferred directly to the accounts of the sugarcane farmers, Paswan said.
The creation of such a buffer stock will facilitate clearing of cane dues of the farmers and also ensure regular supply of sugar in the market by maintaining the demand and supply balance. The cost of creation of the buffer stock, including carrying costs and other incidental charges is estimated to be around Rs 1,200 crore.On the National Food Security Act (NFSA), Paswan said the government has decided to keep the Central Issue Price of coarse grain, wheat and rice unchanged at Rs 1/2/3 per kg for another year till June 2019. The prices were not revised in the last four years, he said.The food subsidy has gone up 26 per cent to Rs 1.43 lakh crore from Rs 1.13 lakh crore in 2014-15, he said. The government has been able to delete or cancel 2.75 crore ration cards after digitization of beneficiary records and seeding with unique identity Aadhaar.For the first time, a buffer stock of up to 20.5 lakh MT of pulses has been created through the Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) scheme of the Department of Consumer Affairs with the objective of managing price volatility of pulses for consumers, said a department official.Prices of 22 essential commodities are being monitored on a daily basis from 102 centres across the country. Of these, since 2014, 45 new price reporting centres have been added across the country, including two in the North-Eastern Region, the official added.