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“SMART-PDS Initiative Should be Implemented in all States/UTs”: Piyush Goyal

The Union Minister emphasized the importance of a transparent and accountable system, urging the reduction of human intervention and the promotion of automation in existing processes. He stated that transparency is critical for the free supply chain of foodgrains under the Public Distribution System.

Shivam Dwivedi
Settlement of pending claims of state governments is being done on a priority basis and will be completed as soon as possible.
Settlement of pending claims of state governments is being done on a priority basis and will be completed as soon as possible.

SMART-PDS is a technologically driven initiative that is urgently needed; therefore, all states and union territories should make concerted efforts to implement SMART-PDS as soon as possible, said Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Textiles, and Commerce and Industries, while addressing the Conference of Food Ministers from all states and union territories.

Goyal praised Andhra Pradesh Command Control and stated that the Central Government and State Government will collaborate to implement it in other states as well. On the storage front, the Union Minister stated that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is converting their godowns into 5 star rated godowns, and that state governments can also do so. He stated that the settlement of pending claims of state governments is being done on a priority basis and will be completed as soon as possible.

The Union Minister also thanked all of the Food Ministers of the States, officers of the States/UTs, and officers of the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD) for making time to attend this conference. He went on to say that everyone at the conference is there to help the poor, so we should all do our jobs honestly so that the poor get their foodgrain on time.

Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Environment, Forest and Climate Change, discussed the major initiatives undertaken by the Government of India to strengthen India's Public Distribution System.

He emphasised the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) implemented in coordination with States and UTs from April 2020 to December 2022 during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the One Nation One Ration Card plan implemented to support the migrant population. He also emphasised the importance of including millets in the PDS to improve the country's nutritional security.

Sanjeev Chopra, Secretary, DFPD, welcomed all State Food Ministers, officers of States/UTs, and DFPD officers and briefed them on the conference agenda items. He emphasized the Government of India's efforts to reduce wheat prices through OMSS, optimize supply chain management, promote millets (Shree Anna), and scale up rice fortification, among other things.

He concluded by saying that the conference will result in the development of a food and public distribution roadmap for both the Centre and the States/UTs. This conference paves the way for a renewed sense of progress and growth in the food and public distribution sectors. The Conference gave States/UTs a platform to advance their cause and acted as a catalyst in providing viable solutions to their problems. It also highlighted the accomplishments of states and territories, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. During the conference, issues concerning the procurement of millets and their use among PMGKAY beneficiaries were discussed.

All states have been urged to learn from Karnataka's best practice of using millets in schemes such as ICDS, mid-day meal, and PDS, which helps to add nutrition and promote a healthy diet. The conference also discussed how to combat anaemia and nutritional deficiencies in various parts of the country by raising awareness about the benefits of fortified rice. It should be noted that Phase II of the Rice Fortification project was completed well ahead of schedule, covering all 269 targeted rice-consuming districts on March 31, 2023.

Phase III of the Rice Fortification Initiative will begin on April 1, 2023, with the goal of distributing fortified rice in all districts except wheat-consuming districts by March 31, 2024, in addition to ICDS, PM POSHAN, and other welfare schemes. However, the Department intends to meet the target by September 2023.

States were encouraged to obtain additional millets and coarse grains. All state governments were asked to open coarsegrain procurement centres in producing districts, particularly tribal areas. State governments were also asked to promote the consumption of cereal grains. The expected procurement of coarse grains/millets (Shree Anna) during KMS 2022-23 (Kharif & Rabi) is 7.50 LMT, compared to the actual procurement of 6.30 LMT during KMS 2021-22. In KMS 2022-23, the Karnataka State Government will purchase 6 LMT millets (5 LMT Ragi and 1 LMT Jowar).

The best practise of foodgrain procurement in UP, route optimization by Punjab, and auto grain analyzer by FCI have also been highlighted in order to ensure an efficient and effective food security management system across the country. States were also advised to implement additional Minimum Threshold Parameters, such as linking mill electricity consumption with milled quantity of paddy and linking vehicles used for foodgrain transportation with GPS tracking for efficiency and transparency by June 2023.

A meeting of State Food Secretaries and Food Corporation of India (FCI) was held during the first session of the conference under the chairmanship of Secretary DFPD to discuss procurement arrangements for the upcoming Rabi Marketing Season (RMS) 2023-24 and Rabi crop of Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2022-23.

During the upcoming RMS 2023-24, a quantity of 341.50 LMT wheat has been estimated for procurement from ten wheat procuring States, which is significantly greater than the actual procurement of 187.92 LMT of wheat during the previous RMS 2022-23. In this regard, it is worth noting that Punjab, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh will transport 25 LMT, 15 LMT, and 20 LMT of wheat, respectively.

A total of 106 LMT rice (rabi crop) has been estimated for procurement during the current KMS 2022-23 rabi crop from 11 rice (rabi crop) procuring States. States were advised to increase milling capacity so that milling of one season is completed before the start of the next season and rice recycling is avoided.

It is expected that seamless procurement with direct transfer of funds into farmer accounts, low transportation costs, and human interference-free and quick analysis of foodgrains will become a part of the Food Security Management ecosystem very soon.

The artificial intelligence-based auto grain analyzer can process results for paddy, rice, wheat, pulses, oil seeds, and coarse grain in less than a minute. ICAR- CIPHET, Ludhiana, has certified it. It reduces human intervention/error/bias and saves time by providing digitally verifiable results for each grain.

Other topics covered included smart PDS and One Nation One Ration Card for seamless delivery of foodgrains to migrant beneficiaries. The best practises of Andhra Pradesh's command control centre for real-time data on procurement, storage, quality, and distribution of foodgrains were also discussed, and all states were urged to learn and adopt the methods to make their systems effective and efficient.

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