Strengthening food security in the country and protection of interests of common man as consumer has been a high priority of the NDA Government. During last one year a number of initiatives were taken to make foodgrain management more efficient and promote welfare of farmers. Measures have been taken for quality assurance of consumer goods and services in the country to give fillip make in India. Following are the main initiatives taken during last one year:
Strengthening farmer welfare and food security
- In order to give relief to the farmers affected with unseasonal rains and to save them from distress sale of wheat, quality norms for procurement relaxed. The Central Government decided to reimburse amount of value cut on MSP, if any imposed, to the states so that farmers get full Minimum Support Price (MSP) even for shrivelled and broken wheat grains or having lustre loss. Such a farmer’s centric step was taken first time by any Central Government.
- An action plan is being finalized by FCI to provide better price support services to the farmers in the Eastern States, especially to the small and marginal in Eastern UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam where at present procurement system has poor outreach to the farmers. It will save farmers from distress sale and exploitation by the middlemen. Improved MSP coverage will also encourage farmers to adopt technology and improve yield of paddy/ rice in these States, where productivity levels at present are below national average. This will ultimately increase income and will bring in prosperity to the farmers of the region.
- In the interest of farmers, FCI is also working on a procurement plan for pulses and oilseeds to ensure MSP for farmers for both the crops.
- To ensure payment of minimum support price to more paddy farmers, millers levy on rice brought down to 25% in the Kharif Marketing Season 2014-15, and decided to abolish it from October, 2015. This will save farmers from exploitation and they will not depend on millers for selling their paddy.
- This initiative has improved delivery of MSP to the farmers for paddy even in the situation of market prices ruling below the MSP, especially in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, where the farmers are substantially dependent on millers for selling their paddy.
- During Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2013-14 only a quantity of 8.52 lakh MT of paddy had been purchased directly from the farmers by the State Agencies in unified Andhra Pradesh, but in KMS 2014-15, such direct purchase of paddy has gone upto 36.76 lakh MT in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana together. The reduction of levy in KMS 2014-15 has not resulted in any substantial reduction of overall procurement of rice in these two States till date compared to KMS 2013-14.
- Similarly in Uttar Pradesh, the procurement of paddy has gone up from 9.07 lakh MT in previous season to 18.18 lakh MT in current season and overall procurement of rice has gone up from 11.05 lakh MT of previous season to 16.10 lakh MT till April, 2015.
- In West Bengal also, the procurement of paddy has gone up from 5.79 lakh MT in previous season to 13.29 lakh MT in current season and overall procurement of rice has gone up from 8.27 lakh MT to 13.31 lakh MT till April, 2015.
- In order to ensure that beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act get entitled foodgrains positively, rules notified in January, 2015 for payment of food security allowance in the case of non-delivery of foodgrains to the beneficiary.
The central Government also decided to share 50% (75% in the case of Hilly and difficult areas) of the cost of handling & transportation of foodgrains incurred by the states and the dealers’ margin so that it is not passed on to the beneficiaries and they get coarse grain Rs1/kg, wheat at Rs2/kg and rice at Rs 3/kg.
Improving foodgrain management
- A high level committee of experts setup in August 2014 to recommend restructuring of Food Corporation India for improving foodgrains management, ensuring efficient MSP operations, scientific storage and strengthening foodgrain supply chain in the country. Action has been initiated on the report submitted by the committee.
- To bring all operations of FCI Godowns online and to check reported leakage, “Depot Online” system initiated and integrated security system is being set up in all sensitive depots. In order to modernise foodgrain storage in the country, 20 lakh tons storage capacity is being created in the shape of “Silos” in first phase.
- In order to have better targeting of “other welfare schemes’ for poor, a committee of ministers set up under the chairmanship of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. The Committee not only decided continuation of foodgrain allocation for other welfare schemes but also nutritional support by providing milk and eggs etc under the schemes.
- 612.42 lakh tonnes of food grains allotted to States/UTs for distribution under Targeted Public Distribution System and Other Welfare Schemes during 2014-15.
- Due to progressive procurements from farmers, the stock of foodgrains in central pool as on 1.4.2015 reached to 343.15 lakh tons against minimum buffer norms of 210.40 lakh tons.
- Adequate supplies of food grains ensured during natural calamities of Hud-hud cyclone in Andhra Pradesh and devastating floods in J&K. Availability of sufficient foodgrains in North Eastern States was also ensured inspite of disruption in major rail route because of gauge conversion work. 80,000MT foodgrains moved through roads every month besides creating additional storage of 20,000 MT in the reason. Foodgrains also induct into Tripura via riverine route passing through Bangladesh.
- An additional storage capacity of 43,480 MT has been created in the North East with funds amounting to Rs.76.85 crores. This storage capacity enhancement will help in meeting foodgrain requirement of the reason.
- Meeting with the representative of farmers, Chief Ministers of major sugarcane growing states and representatives convened to discuss measures to facilitate payment of sugarcane arrears. Accordingly to improve the liquidity of the sugar sector and to facilitate the payment of sugarcane arrears to the farmers following steps were taken:
- Import duty on sugar first increased from 15% to 25% and than 40%.
- The duty free import authorisation schemes for exporters withdrawn.
- Decision to withdraw the excise duty on ethanol, for blending with petroleum, from next sugar season, so that the price benefit to the sugar mills could facilitate payment of sugarcane arrears.
- The policy for procurement of ethanol for blending with petrol also modified.
Promoting consumer protection
- A conference of State Food Ministers organized and integrated action plan on tackling food inflation adopted in July 2014.
- Potatoes and Onions notified “Essential Commodities” enabling State Governments to impose stock control orders on both the commodities and to take anti-hording measures.
- Number of price reporting centres increased from 57 to 64 to strengthen price monitoring of 22 essential commodities by the Ministry.
- To enhance supply of wheat during lean period and to moderate prices, 100 lakh tonnes of wheat approved for sale under Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) during 2014-15 and 50 lakh tonnes of additional rice released through Targeted Public Distribution System.
- In order to ensure availability of fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices to consumers and wider selling option to farmers, fruits and vegetables delisted from the APMC Act in Delhi. Kissan Mandi set up for selling both the commodities. All other states were also advised to adopt the arrangement.
- After 360 degree review of the Consumer Protection Act, comprehensive amendments finalised in the Act to ensure quick, inexpensive and simple redressal of consumer’s grievances, enabling e-filing of cases and not requiring personal appearance till the stage of admission, and time bound admission of cases proposed. A “Central Consumer Protection Authority” also proposed to investigate unfair trade practices; initiate class action, order recall or replacement of defective products. Provision made for product liability to enable consumers to sue for damages caused by defective products/ deficient services
- Joint campaign organised with Heath, Financial Services and other departments for greater consumer awareness. During the last year the Department of Consumer Affairs intensified its multimedia campaign under the banner of Jago Grahak Jago. With special emphasis on rural areas, tribal areas and North East, the campaign makes consumers aware of their rights/obligations. Joint campaigns were organized with the Reserve Bank of India, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance to focus on specific issues of consumer interests.
- An Inter-Ministerial Group of key sectors that matters to consumers viz Agriculture, Food, Healthcare, Housing, Financial Services and Transport, to facilitate policy coherence and coordinated action on consumer advocacy has been constitutes bedsides an Inter- Ministerial Committee to address the problem of Misleading Advertisement and Unfair Trade Practices.
- A dedicated portal www.gama.gov to enable consumers to register their grievances against misleading advertisements (GAMA) launched. Six key sectors viz. food and agriculture, heath, education, real estate, transport and financial services have included for this purpose. The complaints lodged are taken up with the relevant authorities or the sector regulators. The consumer is informed after the action taken.
- To provide a host of consumer services under one roof, Grahak Suvidha Kendras launched in six locations: Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Patna and Delhi on March 18, 2015. Such centres will be set up in every State in phased manner. They will provide guidance to consumers regarding consumer laws, the rights of the consumers, the procedure of approaching Consumer Courts and various other consumer related issues including quality assurance and safety of products.
Strengthening quality assurance regime for Make in India
- In order to strengthen the quality assurance regime for goods and services in the country, the amendments to the BIS Act finalised. The market surveillance for standards and testing of products was made more effective.
- Simplified standards conformity schemes launched so that industry can adopt the quality standards with ease and manufacture standardised products in the country.
- Decision taken to set up five new BIS labs by March 2016 besides modernising the existing labs.
- For better enforcement of standards, a new scheme enabling common consumer to get ISI marked products tested in BIS labs or BIS recognised labs. A mobile App is also being launched which will enable consumers to verify the genuineness of the BIS marked products.
- Facilities provide to engineering students for hands-on Skill Development in National Test House laboratories of BIS.
- Introduction of mandatory Red/Brown/Green Dots for cosmetics to indicate Non-Veg/Veg. Origin on the demand of common consumer.