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Food secretaries suggest monitoring of public distribution system

New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) A conference of state food secretaries Tuesday suggested that a monitoring system should be in place to plug the leakages in the public distribution system and increase its efficiency in the wake of the government plan to enact a food security act.

‘Accountability shall be fixed for not ensuring timely delivery of and quality of food grains, issue of bogus ration cards and ration cards to ineligible persons and exclusion of eligible persons, diversion/leakages and other such offences through administrative action, recovery of financial losses and fixing criminal liability,’ it said at the end of a two-day meeting.

Significantly, the conference took place ahead of a meeting Wednesday of the National Advisory Council (NAC), which is reworking the draft food security bill. The NAC, headed by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, is expected to give its recommendations on widening the content and target of the proposed legislation.

The conference on ‘Best Practices and Reforms in Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS)’ suggested that proper identification of beneficiaries be made based on revised poverty estimates and latest population estimates.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar stressed the need for digitising the entire system.

‘Computerisation of the entire network of TPDS operation is a must and should be completed in a time-bound manner,’ he said, addressing the conference.

The conference also agreed that states should ensure that the quota of foodgrains for a particular month is available with each Fair Price Shop by end of the previous month for timely distribution to the beneficiaries,

effective from October this year.

Pawar launched a pilot scheme on smart card based delivery of essential commodities under the PDS, being introduced in Haryana and Chandigarh.

Earlier inaugurating the conference, he said India needs to create 140 million tonnes of extra storage capacity and it is one of the major challenges before the government.

He said the government will have to spend Rs.4,000 crore to fill the ‘storage gap’.

Pawar said the Food Corporation of India will hire warehouses from private trading companies to store record volumes of rice and wheat procured from farmers.

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