Wheat, rice lost in transit in last 4 years could have fed 82.30 million Indians for a month

Source: Down to Earth

Relevance: Issues with Public Distribution System (PDS)

Synopsis: Findings and recommendations of the Standing Committee report on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (2020-2021) on India’s food storage and transit infrastructure, and the Decentralized Procurement Scheme (DCP).

Findings

On Transit and storage infra

  1. Wastage and pilferage loss: In the last four years, about 4 lakh tonnes of wheat and rice has been wasted as transit and pilferage losses, revealed a Standing Committee report. The subsidized food, if distributed properly would have been enough to feed 82.30 million people for a month.
  2. Huge amount of transit losses: The transit losses amounted to more than Rs 1000 crore in just the last four years (till October 2020).
  3. Pending cases: The committee questioned the actions taken against the officials responsible for transit losses and the cases that are still pending.

The findings above show the dismal state of India’s food storage and transit infrastructure.

On DCP Scheme

  • Only 23 states have implemented the Decentralized Procurement Scheme (DCP) so far — 15 to procure rice and eight to procure wheat — despite the scheme being in place for 23 years.
Must Read: What is the Decentralized Procurement (DCP) scheme?
Recommendations

On Transit and storage infra

  • The committee recommended Food Security of India (FSI) to prepare new standards, guidelines and checklists to mitigate the losses and make officials, workers more aware.
  • It also asked for a framework to deal with the pending cases of corruption, excise duty and related matters.

It suggested stricter steps to circumvent negligence and corruption in the distribution process of subsidized food grains by FSI.

On DCP scheme

  • The scheme is not yet mandatory for states, but the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution should encourage them to implement it. The scheme will not only help reduce the cost of distribution, but also aid distribution of grains on minimum support price, the committee said.
  • The Centre should help states implement the system by delivering basic services within a dedicated time frame, the committee added.
  • The committee has requested that the central government speak with state governments to make them better understand the challenges associated with the scheme and try to resolve them.
Must Read: Food security in India and its challenges – Explained
Steps already taken

On Transit and storage infra

Govt responded to committee’s findings by stating that several steps have already been taken, like

  • Farmers are now provided the minimum support price online. Agencies are also being paid through the e-payment system.
  • The quality of cereals has always been questionable. Thus, quality-related parameters are being made public.
  • Regular inspections: The procurement process is being regularly inspected and action is being taken against those who are found guilty.
  • Tagging of produce: The produce is tagged at every step of the process — from the mills to the depot. Some sensitive districts have been identified for special monitoring.
  • CCTV cameras are also installed in all the godowns. In addition, committees have been formed to redress the grievances of the contractors.
  • Distribution monitoring: Several steps have also been taken to monitor the distribution. For example, selling in the open market is done only through e-auction. Stock quality is checked by joint sampling.
Future steps

On Transit and storage infra

  • Monitoring of transportation system: The transportation system will be closely monitored to check transit loss, especially in routes where damages often occur, the ministry informed.
  • Consignment squad: An independent consignment squad will be formed to look after loading and unloading at railway stations.
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