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‘Food security needed to prevent backlash’
New Delhi, May 3 (IANS):
Published on 4 May. 2010 1:04 AM IST
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Unless India’s deprived are provided food security, it can evoke a serious backlash, as food riots have led to toppling of governments in some countries, warns the chief of one of the largest farming cooperatives.
“Unless the government can provide food security to its people, there will be a terrific backlash,” said C.V. Ananda Bose, managing director of the the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED).
“Food riots have even thrown away governments in some countries. But India fortunately doesn’t have a food crisis,” Bose told IANS in an interview.
According to him, India had thought about food security “at the right time” and the bill in this regard was a “proactive step” initiated by the government. A group of ministers is discussing the final points of the food security bill.
Bose, a 1977 batch official from the Indian Administrative Service, said India can also become an agriculture super power if it taps the farming potential to the optimum.
“We have all resources to increase agriculture production and productivity. We only have to tap the infinite potentials of our country particularly eastern India,” he said and added that his organisation had many roles to play to ensure food security.
“Food security means providing sufficient, safe and nutritious food to the poor and the marginalised people to meet their dietary needs. We have many roles to play to ensure food security in the country,” the civil service official said.
NAFED was established in 1958 to promote cooperative marketing of agricultural produce to benefit the farmers. Agricultural farmers are the main members of NAFED. In a bid to give a boost to food security, NAFED has already taken certain steps, he said.
“We have sought the help of nanoscience and nanotechnology experts like P. Somasundaran who can help India ensure food security by increasing crop yields and reducing consumption.”
Somasundaran, who teaches at Columbia University in the US, visited India last month and expressed his willingness to chair a task force being set up by NAFED on use of science and nanotechnology to boost agricultural production and prevent damage to food grain.
Referring to NAFED’s decision to distribute high-yielding seeds developed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to farmers, he said “high yielding will stop the decline in agricultural production and can ensure food security”.
BARC, under its nuclear agriculture and biotechnology division, developed 38 new seeds by combining mutation and recombination breeding techniques.
These include 20 oil seeds (groundnut-14, mustard-3, soybean-2 and sunflower-1,) 15 pulses (green gram or moong-7, black gram-4, pigeon pea or tur-4) and one each cowpea (chowli), rice and jute seeds.
Bose also conceived and implemented an easy markets scheme, ‘farm gate to homegate’ in Delhi, Chennai and Kochi as a price control intervention, when the prices of the essential commodities sky rocketed a few months ago.
NAFED plans to extend this initiative to other states, gradually. “Under the ‘farm gate to home gate’ scheme, NAFED procures essential commodities from farmers directly and sell them to people, eliminating intermediaries who make the process expensive.”
Cheap foodgrains to
all not feasible: Govt
Meanwhile government Monday rejected the Opposition demand for universalisation of the PDS, stating cheap foodgrains to all families would mean unsustainable annual food subsidy, which was presently Rs 65,000-70,000 crore.
“If we universalise the public distribution system (PDS), the government will have to procure 70 million tonnes, which has never been done. It never went beyond 54 million tonnes,” Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said in the Rajya Sabha. This year the government has almost procured 54 million tonnes, which is a record. Replying to a discussion on the working of his ministry, Pawar said food subsidy which used to be Rs 18,000-Rs 19,000 crore has gone up to Rs 70,000 crore.
“The demand is that we should not raise the issue price (at ration shops) for the APL (Above Poverty Line) families, but cover them under universalisation of the PDS...where will the subsidy come from,” he asked. APL families are getting ration supplies at the 2002 price, whereas the minimum support price at which the government procures the grain from farmers has almost doubled since then, the minister said. On suggestions of providing cash rather than foodgrains to BPL families to plug the leakages, the minister said it was debatable whether the desired results could be achieved.
“Whether the money given to the poor would be spent on foodgrains or elsewhere....this is something to be thought about,” he said.
The supply of foodgrains through smart cards is being tried through pilot projects in two-three states. “We are ready to implement it throughout the country, if the experiment succeeds,” he said.

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