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Mukherjee lays stress on food security challenge as means to improve agriculture productivity

New Delhi, Wed, 08 Feb 2012 ANI

New Delhi, Feb 8 (ANI): Stating that for a country of 1.2 billion people it is imperative to build a certain self-sufficiency in meeting basic needs, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said that for a nation with a growing population and a sustained growth momentum, the food security challenge is also a challenge for improving agriculture productivity.


"I would like to suggest that for a country with growing population and a sustained growth momentum, food security challenge is also a challenge of improving agriculture productivity. For a country of 1.2 billion people it is imperative to build certain self-sufficiency in meeting our basic needs. It has been rightly pointed out that we need to increase production in the regions where acreage and productivity have lagged behind so far," said Mukherjee in his address at the Conference on Public Distribution System.


"We did achieve our self sufficiency in food by the Green Revolution, but we now need that second revolution that will take us to a new trajectory where we can feed all and feed them with a view to ensure nutrition balance as well. The Government has initiated a programme to take the green revolution to the eastern part of the country. More investment in agricultural infrastructure is required, which over the last few years has already seen a turnaround in its declining trend," he added.


Mukherjee said power, water, rural roads, national highways, storage, warehousing and cold chains have to be the focus areas for productivity improvement in the agriculture economy of the country.


"We also need more support in R andD and extension technology in agriculture from both private and public institutions," he added.


Mukherjee said improved production of foodgrains has to be backed by our capacity to procure more foodgrains.


"The willingness of the state governments and their efforts to enhance institutional capacity as well as tying up finances required for procurement- both will be required. You need to ensure that farmer gets the MSP directly in his bank account. We have built a rural banking network that is robust and growing. But operational issues in popularizing banking amongst the rural masses remain and have to be fully addressed," said Mukherjee.


"The financial strength of the farmer increases his negotiating strength with buyers and indeed it enhances the returns he can get from his efforts. The debt cycle has been blamed for a number of ills in the agrarian sector in this country, and procurement is an important tool that can be used to eliminate that scourge," he added.


Mukherjee further said the main challenge before the public distribution system today is reaching the foodgrains to the actual beneficiaries without leakages and diversion on the route to grass-root level.


"For this a massive modernization drive is required. Digitizing the database of beneficiaries and computerization of the entire food supply chain will remain the main stepping-stones on which we can make the PDS successful. These efforts would make the schemes transparent, help eliminate leakages and corruption and empower the beneficiaries to get what is indeed their right," he added.


Emphasizing that modernization of TPDS is the foremost priority of Government of India, Mukherjee said: "It is a complex and challenging task as PDS operates in 35 States and UTs through more than 5 lakh Fair Price Shops across diverse operating environments. PDS faces challenges like leakages and diversion of foodgrains, inclusion/exclusion errors; fake and bogus ration cards; lack of transparency; weak grievance redressal and social audit mechanisms, viability of Fair Price Shops, etc."


"I hope in this conference, you will discuss these issues and come up with a time bound action plan to achieve the targets," he added.


Mukherjee said the strengthening of PDS not only requires computerisation of operations but also an active involvement of Panchayati Raj Institutions and local community through transparent and open processes. (ANI)


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