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'Rice at Rs 2/kg cannot be imagined elsewhere'

Onion prices fall due to good harvest but the farmers suffer because of poor marketing, says Paswan

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Jun 11 2016 3:01PM | Updated Date: Jun 11 2016 3:19PM

'Rice at Rs 2/kg cannot be imagined elsewhere'
The "last two years have been extremely satisfactory" as some basic issues of people's livelihood could be addressed, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said.
He,  however felt that while the Centre bears the cost of providing subsidised rice at Rs 2 kg, states claim the credit for this.
"While we give subsidies from the Centre, the states run away with the credit and the media blames the (Narendra) Modi government. I have said this in Parliament also. I would like to tell that claims made by certain states that they are providing rice and paddy free of cost to the people is not true. It's the Centre which is giving this," Paswan told news agency IANS in an interview.
"Nowhere in the planet can you imagine the quantum of government intervention to ensure PDS (public distribution system) supply for the poor and the needy. Rice at Rs 2 per kg is unimaginable elsewhere," Paswan told the agency.
"If the price of rice is Rs 30 per kg, then the Centre is giving a subsidy of Rs 28 and the consumers pay just Rs 2," the minister stressed.
"The contribution from the Uttar Pradesh government is zero. In Bihar also it's zero. If the price of wheat is Rs 20 per kg, we are feeding the entire country at the rate of Rs 2. Our work in the last two years has been revolutionary," Paswan maintained.
Little wonder then, Paswan said, running the Food Ministry was a "thankless job" wherein no credit is given for bringing down the prices.
"It is a thankless job. Compared to last year, prices of various items like wheat and rice have decreased. Compared to May 2016, prices of pulses like Mung and Urad have now decreased as well. But no one will give credit for the good work and proper planning," Paswan said.
"Onion prices fall due to good harvest but the farmers suffer because of poor marketing which fetches them just Rs 3 per kg, and then we are accused of neglecting the farmers' welfare," Paswan said.
Paswan said the Centre  is "going out of the way in more ways than one" to help the farmers by giving enhanced Minimum Support Price (MSP).
The distress of sugarcane farmers has been a matter of concern for the government. These farmers do not get their due from the sugar mills even though the price of sugar has gone up manifold in the last few months.
Raising the plight of sugarcane farmers and the arrears due to them, Paswan the agency: "The central government's role was to fix the Fair Remunerative Price (FRP). Essentially the matter is between the state governments and mill owners. But appreciating the gravity of the situation farmers are in, we intervened and nearly 87 per cent of the dues amounting to Rs 6,225 crore has been released."
Price rise has been a major issue which is used by the political opponents to target the Modi government. The minister, however, stressed that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is working to keep a check on the price rise of essential commodities. Short- and long-term strategies are being planned in this regard, Paswan said.
He said a core group of ministers -- comprising Arun Jaitley (Finance), Nirmala Sitharaman (Commerce), Radha Mohan Singh (Agriculture) and he himself -- is regularly monitoring the situation and they have been largely successful in controlling prices.