Priority to keep food inflation in check during 2017: Paswan
Keeping prices of all essential food items under control and full digitisation of public distribution system (PDS) will be the priority for the government in the new year, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said today.
With the National Food Security law being rolled out across the country, Paswan said the government will now focus on its proper implementation and complete major reforms in the PDS, including 100% Aadhar seeding of ration cards.
The Minister, who is also in charge of consumer affairs department, said the government will make efforts to pass the new Consumer Protection Bill in the forthcoming Budget session of Parliament after it remained hanging last year.
"During 2016, we were able to control the prices of pulses as well as sugar. This year, our focus will be to keep food inflation under check and protect consumers interest," Paswan told PTI in an interview.
The Minister expressed confidence that there will not be a repeat of the pulses crisis this year as domestic production is expected to touch a record 20-21 million tonnes. Moreover, the government is creating a buffer stock of 2 million tonnes which will be utilised in times of price rise.
On wheat, he said the government has already reduced import duty on the grain to boost domestic supplies and keep prices under control.
According to official data, retail food inflation was down at 2.11% during November 2016. The data for December is yet to be released.
Asked about other priorities of his ministry, Paswan said that the government has taken number of initiatives to revamp PDS and efforts would be to "complete all the reforms in 2017" to make PDS more transparent and check diversion of grains.
Till last year, 71% of ration cards have been seeded with Aadhar number and this process will be completed this year, he added.
To achieve end-to-end computerisation in PDS, Paswan said ration cards have been digitised, PDS grains to states are being allocated online, and all ration shops will be automated this year.
Talking about his Consumer Affairs Department, the Minister said that several initiatives have been taken to protect consumer interest last year including provision to fix retail prices of essential items to check price rise.
The department has also came out with guidelines for direct selling industry and drafted Consumer Protection Bill which aims to impose hefty penalties on celebrities endorsing misleading advertisements and stringent action for food adulteration.
"We were trying to get this bill passed in Parliament in last session but it did not happen. We hope it will get passed in the forthcoming Budget session," he said.