By Pramod Kumar Jha
New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) In a major statement on alleged hoarding and price hike of essential commodities during lockdown, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said that government agencies are strictly monitoring the market and no, essential items are priced higher than its MRP.
“We are even monitoring vegetables from tomatoes to potatoes or grains such as rice, wheat or pulses. I assure the nation that during lockdown or beyond, all essential commodities would be available across the country,” Ram Vilas Paswan told IANS in an exclusive interview.
On the issue of the hike of prices of vegetables and fruits in some parts of the country, the Minister said that vegetables like potatoes, onions or tomatoes are in ample stocks, so there is nothing to worry about.
“There is no shortage of vegetables. If in any part of the country, there is an issue of rise in the prices, it could be at the consumption centres due to transportation issues.
“Let me clarify again that there is no scarcity of food, vegetables or grain. Prices of essential commodities including grain are well under control,” said Ram Vilas Paswan, one of the senior most ministers in the Modi government.
When asked that opposition parties have raised the demand of opening up all government warehouses(of food grains) for the people, Paswan said that grains are being distributed free of cost to beneficiaries of Public Distribution System (PDS) across the country during the lockdown.
“Few states, including West Bengal had not lifted grains from Food Corporation of India(FCI) godowns. But I spoke to the Bengal minister on this issue, and now the Bengal government has started lifting the grains from central godowns for free distribution.
“All employees of the FCI are working round the clock to provide ration to the 81 crore beneficiaries of the PDS in the countrythe ,” Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister added.
To ensure that free ration reaches to the remotest of the villages, particularly in the far off Northeast (NE) states, FCI provided 2.16 lakh tonnes of essential commodities to Assam, 17,000 tonnes to Arunachal Pradesh, 38,000 tonnes to Meghalaya, 18,000 tonnes to Manipur, 33,000 tonnes to Tripura and sufficient quantity of grains and food to Nagaland and Mizoram.
“Providing essential items to these states was my first priority as this region has limited access to the railway network. I asked the FCI officials to ensure that our NE brothers and sisters should be given their due share.
“In the past 25 days 4.42 lakh MT tonnes of food grains reached NE states, out of which 1.74 lakh MT tonnes of grains have been distributed free under PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojna(PMGKAY),” said Ram Vilas Paswan, who is everyday in his Krishi Bhawan Office in New Delhi, to review countrywide PDS operations during lockdown.
Apprehending difficulties faced by the common man during the lockdown, the Centre announced 5 kg of wheat or rice per month free of cost to nearly 81 crore ration card holders in India.
For this mammoth scheme of free distribution of ration, the government required around 40 lakh tonnes of grain. As of now nearly 35 lakh tonnes of grain has been lifted from FCI warehouses, and remaining would be lifted in the coming few days.
“The Modi government is dedicated to serving the people. All workers of FCI and our Ministry are working 24×7 to provide food to the countrymen,” assured Paswan, who is heading one of the crucial departments in the Central government during the unprecedented pandemic-induced lockdown.