The UPA government’s “core group” on Thursday to control food prices set up three working groups of chief ministers to do the job.
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided that the groups would look into three specific sectors: food production, prices and the public distribution system (PDS), that includes a vast web of retail outlets to supply grains to the poor.
The decisions make clear the UPA government’s approach — fighting food inflation cannot be a solo act of the Centre but a combined Centre-state strategy.
This was the core group’s first meeting since its announcement two months ago. It was attended by chief ministers (CMs) from eight states: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
Tamil Nadu was represented by deputy CM M.K. Stalin, while Punjab was represented by a state Cabinet minister. Two BJP chief ministers figure in two of the groups, worked out after a 4-hour brainstorm session at the PM’s residence.
While Gujarat CM Narendra Modi will head the group on consumer affairs and prices, Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh is a member of the working group on strengthening the PDS, to be headed by Planning Commission.
The government has not been able to get a handle on food inflation.
The food price index rose 17.70 per cent in the 12 months to March 27, higher than an annual rise of 16.35 per cent in the previous week, data showed on Thursday.
Prime Minister Singh said the primary concern of the government must be to “insulate the poor and the vulnerable” from soaring food prices.
“Our food production needs to grow at a higher rate, not just to keep pace with our population growth at current rate of consumption,” Singh said.
The core group discussed options of re-introducing some stringent provisions of the Essential Commodities (Special Provisions) Act, 1981.