The government should set up a body, headed by the Prime Minister, to effectively implement the proposed Food Security Bill that aims to give legal right over cheap foodgrains to 63.5% of the population, top agri-scientist MS Swaminathan said today.
He also recommended a National Foodgrains Post Harvesting Board for better coordination and swift action on issues related to storage and rail racks availability for smooth movement of grains.
The National Food Security Bill, which is a pet project of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and was part of the promises made in 2009 general elections, is being vetted by the parliamentary standing committee.
"India is on the threshold of a historic transition from a ship-to-mouth existence to implementing the world's largest social protection programme against hunger with home-grown food. But for effective implementation of this bill, a body headed by the Prime Minister should be set up," Swaminathan said addressing the conference here on Food Security.
The proposed body could have chief ministers of foodgrains procuring states as well has foodgrains deficient states as members, he suggested.
At present, the government is supplying subsidised foodgrains through the Public Distribution System (PDS), which is operated under the joint responsibility of the central and state governments.
The central government has the responsibility of procurement, storage, transportation and bulk allocation. The responsibility for distributing the same to consumers via ration shops rests with state governments.
Swaminathan, who is also the member of the Rajya Sabha, said there is "serious mismatch" between foodgrain production and post-harvest facilities such as storage.
"We need a mechanism to co-ordinate with Railways, Food Corporation of India and Jute Board to tackle post-harvest issues," he said.
Currently, the government is facing the problem of plenty as it has storage capacity of only 63 million tonnes, while government's foodgrain stocks are expected to cross 70 million tonnes by the end of this month.
On Food Bill, Swaminathan also made a suggestion that the government should "at least implement universal PDS" in 200 high-burden districts" and provide enabling provision to address hidden hunger in the country.
He also noted that it would be difficult to implement the proposed bill without pan-political support.