Modi, Hooda & Montek to head price rise task groups

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Narendra Modi, Hooda & Montek,

New Delhi , April 8: Expressing concern about high food inflation, which reached 17 per cent this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the government’s prime concern was to insulate the vulnerable sections of society against the rapid rise in prices of essential commodities.

The PM formed three working groups, tasking each one of them with a different function. While Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi will head the group on consumer affairs, Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda will head the group on growth in agriculture. Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has been tasked to look after the group on food and PDS.

The PM also emphasised that food production needs to grow at a higher rate not just to keep pace with the population growth at the current rate of consumption, but also in order to satisfy the food and nutritional needs of the country to pull its people out of poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Stressing the need for sustaining productivity gains and to adopt district-specific strategies for reducing gaps between potential and actual yields, the PM cautioned that increased production is not enough to achieve food security for all. For that, he said, there was need to look at strengthening the PDS to prevent large-scale leakage and diversion of food grains, said the PM. He asked the states to correct exclusion and inclusion errors in the identification of BPL and Annapurna Anna Yojana beneficiaries.

Drawing attention to the experiences of some states, the PM further advised them that advanced storage facilities should be constructed fast so that food grains are not stored in the open.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who heads the core group, highlighted the four-pronged strategy in his Budget to cover agriculture production, reduction in wastage of agricultural produce, credit support to farmers and imparting greater thrust to the food-processing sector.

Though food inflation reached 17 per cent this week, food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said prices of essential commodities had come down in the past few months and were expected to maintain a downward trend. Highlighting the need for a paradigm shift by bringing agriculture back to the centre of the agenda, Mr Pawar underlined the importance of three initiatives of extending the green revolution to eastern India, raising productivity of oilseeds and pulses by organising 60,000 such villages and investing in climate resilient agriculture, as announced in Budget 2010-11.

The core group discussed suggestions from some state governments about re-introducing the Essential Commodities (Special Provisions) Act of 1981 and amending the Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980, to provide for more stringent punishment and for authorising state governments to issue control orders prescribing upper ceilings of retail prices of commodities/maximum profit margins on wholesale and retail trade in essential commodities to check profiteering.

The core group asked the state governments to take appropriate measures to extend fresh credit to all farmers who benefited under the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme and also launch branch/village-level campaigns to activate dormant Kisan Credit Cards (KCCs) and provide KCCs to all willing and eligible farmers.

Age Correspondent

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