Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today pleaded for the restructuring of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in such a manner that it should benefit both the farmers and consumers besides ensuring a flawless procurement and Public Distribution System (PDS). The Chief Minister put forth these views before the high level committee for restructuring of FCI led by its Chairman and former Union Minister Dr. Shanta Kumar, here at Chief Minister's residence this afternoon. The committee is mandated to give suggestions to reorient FCI's role and functions in MSP operations, storage and distribution of food grain and food security systems.
Taking part in the deliberations, the Chief Minister urged Dr. Shanta Kumar that the restructuring of country's premier food procurement agency should be done to eliminate difficulties and bottlenecks in way of smooth and timely procurement of food grains. He recalled the significant contribution of Punjab in national food security adding that agriculture was the lifeline of the state and also of nation. Mr. Badal pointed out that the best infra structure for agriculture and marketing in terms of marketing yards, roads and storage etc. had been created by the state with its own funds and the state government was committed to make Punjab as the best state for the procurement of food grains.
The Chief Minister suggested the committee that a mutually agreed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) must be signed between the FCI and the state government well in advance of procurement season clearly stipulating obligations and rights of both the stakeholders in detail. Likewise, he also opined that the cost sheets should also reflect realistic and actual costs besides deputing separate staff for procurement and movement of grains. Above all, Mr. Badal said that the storage charges should be rational and FCI should procure its allotted share. He further said that the system of Minimum Support Price (MSP) must not be done away with abruptly until it introduces a self-sustaining mechanism of income support to the farmers.
The Chief Minister said the state government had already initiated laudable steps to encourage the farmers to shift from wheat/paddy cropping pattern towards persification by opting cash crops like Maize, Basmati, Sugarcane, Soya bean, pulses and others.
Badal pointed out that the concerted efforts on the part of state government have yielded positive results as the area under basmati this year had gone up from 5 lakh hectares to 8.5 lakh hectares and the area under common paddy had declined to 19 lakh hectares from 22.5 lakh hectares last year and hoped by the next year the area under Basmati would be further increased. He urged the committee to strongly recommend state's case for allocating sufficient funds for agriculture perfsication as the previous UPA government just sanctioned a pea nut of Rs 500 crore, against Rs 5000 crore sought by the state, for Punjab and Haryana of which Punjab was allotted merely Rs 225 crore. Mr. Badal also batted for the implementation of Swaminathan formula in the right earnest to ensure remunerative prices of their produce to the farmers. Winding up the discussions, Dr. Shanta Kumar assured the Chief Minister that the committee would look into all the aspects and issues raised by the latter before taking a final decision.
He said that the committee would give due weight age to the suggestion put forth by the various stakeholders to further strengthen and integrate the supply chain of food grains besides bringing far more transparency, efficiency in the procurement and PDS by the FCI. The former Union Minister advocated that the farmers should be motivated to go for persification by sowing less water guzzling crops like Maize, Sugarcane and Basmati for saving precious natural resource-water for our future generations. He also underscored the need on value addition of farmers' produce by setting up agro-processing units in the state to supplement their income manifold.
Prominent amongst other present on the occasion included Cabinet Minister Mr. Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, Chief Secretary Mr. Sarvesh Kaushal, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Mr. SK Sandhu, Special Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Mr. Gaggandip Singh Brar and Secretary Food and Civil Supplies Mr. DS Grewal. Dr. Shanta Kumar was accompanied by Members former CACP chairman Ashok Gulati and Dean, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad, Gunmadi Nancharaiah.