‘Centre must talk to State governments to ensure there are no starvation deaths’

A.M. Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on May 08, 2020 Published on May 08, 2020

Congress leader KV Thomas calls for better planning to ensure that the needy, including migrant workers, get food during the crisis

Former Food and Public Distribution Minister and senior Congress leader, KV Thomas, slammed the Centre for reports of death due to starvation in the country during the lockdown.

He said that the Centre must not absolve itself from the responsibility of ensuring food to people and asked for better coordination in implementation of Food Security Act during the crisis.

He said States like Kerala have ensured that migrant workers get good food and accommodation and urged the Centre to provide additional stocks of wheat and rice to States so that it reaches migrant workers who are unable to go back home.

Food stock

“Our foodgrains production has increased by about 18 million tonnes compared to last year. We have storage for about one and a half years. This year’s rabi harvest should also be good. Meteorologists have predicted a good monsoon. So our kharif must also be good. But we have to ensure that the present stock reaches to people at the time of a crisis,” said Thomas, who is also a former chairman of Public Accounts Committee.

He added, “Three to five per cent of our stocks in FCI godowns are vulnerable to damages. Taking this into account, the Centre should urgently supply foodgrains to all AAY and BPL card holders for free. It should be delivered at a subsidised rate for all APL card holders. This is what the Centre should do now. Kerala Government has done this in an effective manner. No starvation deaths are reported from Kerala.”

Lack of coordination

He said the Centre can no more hide behind logistics problems now. “Compared to the initial days of lockdown, the movement of essential goods through roads and rails is normal now, even according to the Centre’s own data. The Centre should hold discussions with the States on implementing the Food Security Act during the lockdown. All States have implemented this Act. But lack of coordination is visible now. The Centre should provide foodgrains, pulses, sugar other essentials,” he said.

Thomas said that another major concern is about procurement of rabi harvest. “There are complaints from various States about problems of procuring rabi harvest. I am not sure how capable are our godowns to handle this season’s production if foodgrains remain in the godowns. The Centre should immediately start the distribution of foodgrains from the godowns to make space for the rabi harvest procurement.”

He said, “The supply chain management is important. Our decision to keep procurement of foodgrains under the government was to ensure that people get food at the time of a crisis. FCI system ensures MSP for farmers and subsidised food for the people. Usually, Centre plans everything in advance. But that planning is missing now. The Centre should not absolve from its responsibilities,” he added.

Published on May 08, 2020

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