The sense of comfort over India's food security is somewhat misplaced and both the availability of produce and controlling prices remain challenges needing focussed attention on farm productivity, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.
"Our experience in the past two years has brought to the fore the importance of food security and the need for containing prices," the prime minister told the first annual conference of chief secretaries here Monday.
"For some time past, there was a false sense of security that availability of food has ceased to be a concern. Similarly, many felt that we have been able to control prices," he said in a rather frank assessment of the ground reality.
He, accordingly, urged the state governments, too, to focus their energies on farm productivity and said there was great scope for improving the yields of major crops and hoped to see greater efforts in achieving this.
"Our agricultural productivity still ranks far below the best in the world."
Drawing comfort from the manner in which India handled the challenges posed by the global slowdown in a much better fashion than many other economies, the prime minister stressed that inclusive growth remained the government's centre-piece of development.
"Fast economic growth has little meaning if it does not lead to the well being of the poor and the disadvantaged, of our farmers and workers, of our children, students and women. The benefits of the development process have to percolate to every part of our country."
He said it was for the bureaucracy to ensure that the numerous welfare programmes of the federal and state governments are implemented in the spirit in which they have been conceived, without roadblocks and leakages, through decentralised governance.
"All this constitutes a huge task that requires dedication, commitment and persistence. I would like to add here that the central government does recognize that there is always room for improvement in these schemes and programmes."
The prime minister also expressed concern over poor infrastructure in the country and said states that have lagged behind must go that extra mile to remove all the bottlenecks.
"Shortages of electricity, poor roads, over-crowded ports, delayed flights, all retard our economic efficiency and damage our international image. States that have relatively better infrastructure attract investment while the others lag behind," he said.
"This is a lesson which all States have to imbibe."