New Delhi: With the National Food Security Bill set to be introduced in Parliament, the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has taken initiatives to boost the farm sector, including steps to increase the production of pulses and oilseeds.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), after a meeting on Tuesday to review the agriculture sector, has asked the agriculture department to initiate the next phase of the green revolution.
India introduced high-yielding seed varieties and other scientific agriculture methods in the 1960s to boost farm output and make the country self-sufficient in food. Several calls have been made in recent years for a second green revolution.
The PMO also directed the Food Corp. of India to improve storage facilities in 19 states to enhance capacity by more than 15 million tonnes (mt). “PMO has asked FCI to develop 4 mt of storage capacity by March 2012,” said an official familiar with the development.
The government on 14 September unveiled a draft of the National Food Security Bill to revive the prospects of the ruling coalition, which has been battling a major loss of face because of corruption scandals and other controversies.
The proposed legislation, expected to be passed in the winter session of Parliament, aims to provide 7kg of rice, wheat and coarse grains per person every month at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1, respectively, to 75% of the rural poor and 50% of the urban poor.
Although production of rice and wheat are estimated at 94.11 mt and 84.2 mt, respectively, FCI can procure another 33.53 mt of rice and 28.14 mt of wheat in 2011-12.
To increase the production of oilseeds and pulses, the government has suggested adopting a cluster approach.
“Concerted efforts are being made for increasing production in identified areas—around 60,000 clusters of villages for oilseeds and an equal number of clusters for pulses,” said the official cited above. “Groups of farmers in these clusters would be chosen for demonstration of improved technologies.”
The PMO has asked the director of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) to conduct research to develop high-yielding varieties of pulses and oilseeds that can withstand changes in temperature and other stress factors emanating from climate change, which scientists have pointed out as a reason for poor yields. ICAR scientists have been asked to develop new varieties within two years.
Keeping in view bureaucratic delays in implementing agri-based central programmes in the states, the PMO is looking into delegating decision making powers to chief secretaries of states.
The review meeting headed by T.K.A. Nair, principal secretary to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also directed the consumer affairs department to prepare a regulatory mechanism to check on misleading advertisements. “The first draft of the mechanism should be prepared and submitted to the PMO within a month,” the official said.