Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Dec 10, 2004
Industry & Economy
Kerala to offer all essential commodities thru PDS
Mr Adoor Prakash, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies
Kochi , Dec. 9
THE State Government, in order to ensure nutritional security of the poor ration card holders, would make available all the essential commodities, apart from foodgrains, such as pulses, spices and other value added products at low prices through the public distribution system (PDS) throughout the State.
Those falling under the category of below poverty line (BPL) may, after buying the rice and sugar from the ration shop, have to buy other essential items from the open market where the prices are higher.
If these items were made available in the PDS in packets as per the requirement of the cardholder and affordability, that would motivate them to buy and consume the items having more nutritional value, Mr Adoor Prakash, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, told Business Line.
The main objective of the supply of rice, wheat and sugar through the PDS is to ensure food security. "But, we are trying to change this concept to nutritional security. Many of the poor people coming to the ration shops to buy the subsidised commodities are either unaware of such items or shy of going to a big shop or supermarket. When they are educated about the need to consume certain items for nutrition and it is made available to them as per the strength of their pocket, these people would buy," he said.
He said that the items would be of good quality and packed in attractive pouches/packets. It would be sold at the prices prevailing in the State Government's `Labham' stores, where they are sold at prices lower than the market rates.
The Government, at present, runs around 1,100 Maveli and Labham stores and supermarkets spread over the State where essential commodities are sold at subsidised rates. In addition to this, in the first phase 1,400 ration shops under the PDS would sell all the items for the benefit of those under BPL, he said.
The State at present has 64,86,445 ration card holders and of this 20,22,000 are of BPL category, while 44,64,405 are of APL. He said the Government had in recent months brought 1,14,000 people under the Antyodhaya scheme raising the total to 4,71,000.
Discussions with ration dealers and officials were held in detail and applications have been invited from those interested. All the items after ensuring its quality would be procured by the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) in large quantity at competitive prices strictly through transparent tender process, the Minister said.
Then value addition would be done and packed and supplied to the selected ration shops. Packaging units at four regional centres would also be set up for this purpose. The new scheme is expected to become operational before next Onam season, he said.
The Government, he said, would be supplying the essential commodities under the brand names of the Supplyco. For instance, the `Sabari' tea, a Supplyco brand, has a large market in the State. Similarly, other items could be marketed, he said.
On the reported malpractices in Supplyco leading to heavy losses, Mr Prakash said that steps had been initiated to make all purchases and sales transparent. Since the introduction of the new measures, the corporation had made a saving of over Rs 2 crore in a month in purchases, he said.
The corporation, he said, would be operated on commercial lines, but not as a profiteering organisation. The subsidy available from the Government for the supplies through the PDS and other stores is only Rs 60 crore which is quite inadequate, he said. "Our idea is to make available products at low prices on the one hand and to bring in a price stability in the market," he said.
For the smooth operations, the officers and staff of the corporation, who at present are "a demoralised lot," would be taken into confidence. They would be given some orientation training. Also, depending on the financial performance and profits, the Government might even think of introducing some incentive schemes for the employees, he said.
The officers and staff currently working with the corporation are on deputation from other departments and, hence, they do not have the background in marketing and sales. This had resulted in many involving in disciplinary cases. To sort out this issue review committees would be set up to look into the cases on a fast-track basis and settle them, he added.
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