New Delhi: India has a sufficient stock of food grains—rice and wheat—in the country and Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, under instructions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is taking steps to ensure their smooth supply to the remotest areas.
According to official sources, India has a stock of over 56 million tonnes of food grains, sufficient to take care of the requirements of the people, especially ration card holders and beneficiaries of the welfare schemes, for the next few months. This stock is much higher than the required norm of maintaining a reserve of about 21 million tonnes.
The state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI), the government’s nodal agency for procurement and distribution of food grains under the public distribution system, has so far transported more than 1 million tonnes of food grains through railway rakes ever since lockdown started in the country on 25 March.
Union Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said in a tweet that “FCI godowns have sufficient reserves to meet the demand and officials are keeping a close watch on the distribution of food grains.” As on 31 March, the FCI had a stock of over 56 million tonnes, with 30 million tonnes of rice and 26 million tonnes of wheat. Besides, it also had a stock of over 28 million tonnes of unmilled paddy. The corporation is planning to procure an additional 56 million tonnes of food grains till June, which will replenish the stock. It has planned to offload over 25 million tonnes of food grains in three months until June.
These sources said though there is no shortage of food grains, but managing the supply chain is a challenge for the government. “Therefore, the FCI has stepped up transportation to states as per their requirement. Till Friday, the FCI has transported 1.1 million tonnes of food grains after the lockdown,” a source said.
“In order to ensure easy availability, the government has started e-auctions for rice and wheat. Besides, district magistrates/collectors have been authorised to lift the stock directly from the FCI depots for roller flour mills or other manufacturing facilities. FCI is also getting prepared to meet additional requirements,” an official said.
“FCI will take care of food requirements of 810 million poor people entitled to get 5 kg of wheat or rice monthly at subsidised rates under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). We are also prepared to provide them 5 kg free food grain for the next three months, as announced under the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY),” the official said.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution has also taken measures to make sure that over 75 crore poor people, covered under the Public Distribution System (PDS), get ration of six months in one go. This, officials hope, will ensure availability of food grains to these people in difficult times as they will be able to withdraw rations of half a year, or 30 kg of food grains per person.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, on its part, has asked state governments to check the spread of rumours about shortage of food and other essential commodities. In a communication to Chief Secretaries and DGPs of all states, the Ministry asked them to take action to allay apprehension and maintain peace and tranquility, and inform people about the availability of food, medicine and other essential commodities.
“It is imperative that all state governments and Union Territory administrations take necessary steps to suitably publicise through all available means that food, medical and civil supplies, and other essential services will be maintained and there are adequate supplies available in the country,” the communication said.