Sunday, September 5, 2010

Govt set to reject SC order on foodgrains

New Delhi: The policy standoff between the Supreme Court and the Centre over food security is likely to deepen on Monday, with the latter set to either side-step or brush aside or openly disagree with the apex court’s suggestions, especially the one for free distribution of foodgrain rotting in FCI and government godowns to the poorest of the poor.

A late evening meeting on Sunday to prepare the response to the SC’s August 31 order on the working of public distribution system decided that the government should tiptoe around SC’s suggestion to give foodgrains free to the poor and hungry rather than waste it. In the response it is to give to the court on Monday, government will give details of the wastage of foodgrains in FCI and state government godowns, and will attempt to rationalise it saying some wastage, given the huge procurement over the last three years, “is inevitable”.
According to sources, government plans to tell the court that it has, at the court’s instance, decided to release an additional 25 lakh tonnes of PDS foodgrains for BPL families for six months as an ad hoc measure. The tentativeness, if calculated, will not be on display in the response to SC’s suggestion for abolition of ration cards for above poverty line (APL) families. The court had said that there was no point in giving subsidised wheat or rice to those who could afford to buy it from open market when poor were not getting foodgrains.
Centre has also decided to make plain its disagreement with another suggestion of the court: not to procure foodgrains beyond storage capacity so that wastage could be avoided. The Centre again said it was impossible to limit procurement as by doing this it will hurt the Centre’s policy to give attractive price to farmers and encourage them to grow more foodgrains.
If the procurement was limited to the storage capacity, then the farmers would be left to the mercy of traders who would not pay remunerative prices adversely affecting the cropping pattern in future, government is likely to argue. It will stress that all attempts would be made to increase storage capacity rather than limit procurement of foodgrains.

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