Management of the Food Economy

17. Increased production and rising productivity makes the proper management of the food economy more critical then ever before. Our policy has to be transformed to deal with surpluses rather than only shortages. The present arrangement of Government of India procuring foodgrains and States managing the PDS has led to many problems. While the subsidy has increased from Rs 8210 crore at B.E. to Rs 12,125 crore at R.E. stage this year, the satisfaction level has gone down. I propose, therefore, to give an enlarged role to the State Governments in both procurement and distribution of foodgrains for PDS in their respective states. Instead of providing subsidised foodgrains, financial assistance will be provided to the State Governments to enable them to procure and distribute foodgrains to BPL families at subsidised rates. FCI will continue to procure foodgrains for maintaining food security reserves and for such State Governments who will assign it this task on their behalf. Details for operationalising these arrangements will be worked out in consultation with the State Governments at the earliest.

18. The agricultural sector continues to be constrained by the existence of a number of inhibiting controls and regulations. The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 provides for the control of production, supply and distribution of certain commodities identified as essential commodities under the Act to protect the interest of consumers. State Governments have issued a large number of Control Orders under this Act inhibiting free movement of some food and agriculture products. In the changed present situation undue restrictions on movement and stocking of foodgrains and agricultural produce is acting as a disincentive to farmers.

19. Government therefore proposes to review the operation of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and remove many of the restrictions that have been imposed on the free inter-State movement of foodgrains and agricultural produce and also on the storage and stocking of such commodities. It will also review the list of commodities declared as essential under the said Act and bring their number down to the minimum required. My colleague the Food Minister will issue necessary directions in this regard after consultations with the State Governments.