Government has taken steps to improve quality and quantity assurance of products and made significant progress towards end-to-end computerization of TPDS: Shri Paswan
Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution organizes Fourth National Consultation Meeting of Ministers of States/UTs on issues concerning food & consumer empowerment
Shri Ram Vilas Paswan has urged States/UTs to work together with the Centre to make appropriate intervention to ensure the prices of essential commodities remain stable and inflation is contained. The Union Minister hoped that end to end computerisation of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) will be completed by year 2018. Shri Paswan stated this while speaking at the Fourth National Consultation Meeting of Ministers of States/UTs to deliberate on the issues concerning consumer empowerment, protection and welfare as well as on more effective, efficient and targeted delivery of food under National Food Security Act. The meeting was organized by Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi today.
Shri Ram Vilas Paswan emphasised the need for adhaar seeding of beneficiaries and installation of e-PoS machine for ensuring targeted delivery. This would enable States to increase the number of beneficiaries covered under scheme as the allocation to State is not reduced. He also observed that concerted efforts need to be undertaken by Centre and State Governments as well as concerned agencies and institutions for ensuring consumer protection and welfare.
Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Commerce & Industry Shri C.R Chaudhary observed that due to various policy initiatives, promotional measures and effective monitoring undertaken by the Government, prices of essential commodities have remained at reasonable levels barring a few exceptions over small duration. He also noted that Government has taken steps to improve quality and quantity assurance of products and made significant progress towards end-to-end computerisation of targeted public distribution system (TPDS).
The National Consultation Meeting noted that
- The coordinated efforts by Central and State Governments, appropriate and timely policy interventions including judicious use of trade and fiscal policy have ensured that inflation remains contained at reasonable levels. Prices of essential commodities have generally remained relatively stable, barring seasonal / short-term increase in few. However, there is a need for regular surveillance as the prices of perishable commodities and edibles as they tend to rise between July to November.
- State/UT Governments may undertake market intervention operations, if needed, by setting up State-level Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) scheme, for which contribution is also provided by Centre as per the Guideline of the Scheme.
- Implementation of Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) (Amendment) Rules, 2017 w.e.f. 1st January, 2018 making declarations under the LM Rules on e-commerce platform mandatory, increasing font size of letters and numerals on declaration, mandating that no person shall declare different MRPs (dual MRP) on identical pre-packaged commodity etc. would improve quantity assurance and empower consumer.
- Quality Assurance of the product has got a major fillip with the new Bureau of Indian standards (BIS) Act 2016 with effect from 12th October, 2017. This new BIS Act will facilitate promotion, monitoring and management of the quality of goods by carrying out market survey, creating awareness, promotion of safety and promoting the use of Indian Standards. The new Act has enabling provisions for making hallmarking of precious metal articles mandatory. The new BIS Act also has provisions for recall of non-conforming products.
- Various Acts, programmes, schemes aimed at welfare and protection of the consumers are handled by multiple Government agencies in States. Setting up of a well-coordinated and integrated administrative department with adequate enforcement machinery would help protect the rights of the consumers. Recognizing this, the 3rd National Consultation meeting decided on creation of a separate department of Consumer Affairs in States. States which have not yet set up such a Department may expedite action.
- To empower the consumer and also create a more conducive business to consumer (B2C) interactions, the Department has taken various digital initiatives like setting up of National Consumer Helpline, Grievance Against Misleading Advertisement (GAMA) portal, etc. that would facilitate grievance redressal and offer greater convenience to all stakeholders.
- A three-tier quasi-judicial mechanism consisting of NCDRC, SCDRC & District Fora, has been set-up to adjudicate complaints filed before them and provide speedy redress to consumers. SCDRC & District Fora need to be suitably strengthened and empowered through provision of requisite manpower and infrastructure to improve their effectiveness.
- Reform of PDS has made the distribution more transparent and targeted. Digitisation of ration cards has been completed in all States/UTs and the number of States/UTs with online food grains allocations has increased from 5 in June 2014 to 25. Online grievance redress has now been introduced by all States/UTs.
- Having ensured implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in all the States/UTs, the focus of discussion in the meeting was on reforms in the Public Distribution System. The Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution (CA, F&PD) in his address informed that though NFSA provided for revision in issue prices after three years, this Govt. has kept the prices unchanged at Rs. 1/2/3 per kg for Coarse grains/Wheat/Rice upto June, 2019. He also highlighted the achievements in end-to-end computerisation of TPDS operations which inter alia included digitization of the entire NFSA beneficiary database and facility for online grievance redressal/toll free helplines in all the States/UTs. He further said that in about 60% of the Fair Price Shops e-Pos devices have been installed for authentication of beneficiaries and electronic capturing of transactions. He urged the States/UTs where performance is slow in this area to ensure time-bound completion. The Minister for CA, F&PD also stressed on the need for States/UTs availing benefit of the scheme for allocation of food grains for Welfare institutions and hostels, which has been recently revamped with a view to improve its reach and to bring transparency.
- The Minister for CA, F&PD also said that taking into account requests received from State Governments, revision in the norms of Central assistance to States/UTs for intra-state transportation and fair price shops/dealers margin is being considered.
- During a discussion with States/UTs other aspects of essential reforms in TPDS such as delivery of food grains up to door-step of fair price shops and setting up of effective grievance redressal and monitoring mechanism, as per provisions of NFSA was stressed. States/UTs were also requested to ensure timely lifting of food grains form the FCI go downs so that there is no delay in monthly distribution of food grains.
- In the area of procurement and release of food subsidy following achievements were noted:
- In this marketing year RMS 2018-19, the procurement of wheat has been 355 LMT which is much more than the estimated procurement of 320 LMT, which is a record in past three years.
- There is procurement of 46 LMT of Rabi paddy against target of 55 LMT in KMS 2017-18 so far.
- During 2017-18, Rs. 38,000 crores were released as food subsidy to DCP states and Rs. 1,01,982 Crore (including Rs. 40,000 Crore of NSSF loan) was released to FCI as food subsidy. It has also been ensured that all the states come on PFMS platform so that there is complete transparency in financial transactions at various levels for procurement and distribution operations.
The National Conference further noted that empowering consumer and ensuring their welfare is the joint responsibility of Government of India and the State Governments. The achievement of this objective entails coordinated action by all. Accordingly, the National Consultation agreed to adopt the following Action Plan to be implemented over next year:
- All price reporting centres in the State to provide prices data on all seven days of the week and as per the laid down methodology for data collection. States with relatively lower number of centres may setup additional centres for price reporting. States may send their proposal for strengthening their centres as per the revised guidelines which additionally allows engaging services of one data entry operator per centre and a hand-held device.
- Government of India has built a buffer of about 20 lakh MT of pulses for effective market intervention. The utilization of the pulses in buffer by States/UTs for meeting their requirements under various welfare schemes including Mid-day meal, anganwadi scheme, hospitals, Hostels, and/or any other State agency would help optimize their management and use.
- States may consider setting up the State level PSF for effective market intervention in the identified commodities. The government of India would contribute its share in the State PSF as per the provision laid down in the Guidelines of the Price Stabilization Fund Scheme.
- The states are required to submit an action taken report on enforcement of the Essential Commodities Act &PBMMSEC Act on monthly basis in the prescribed format. Only a few States are providing the information regularly. Department has recently developed a web-based reporting mechanism to further facilitate reporting by the States. States may now regularly provide the requisite data online.
- State Governments may take suitable action on the declaration of dual MRP on identical Pre Packaged Commodities.
- State Governments may ensure that all e-Commerce entities make the mandatory declarations as per Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules.
- States may ensure that Utilization Certificates are given timely for the Grants-in-Aid given by the Central Government for the strengthening of Legal Metrology Laboratories in the States.
- State Governments may Implement Model Rules regarding appointment, terms of service etc., as approved by the Hon’ble Supreme Court for State and District Consumer Fora.
- State Governments may expedite filling up of vacancies of President and Members of Consumer Fora.
- State Governments may ensure effective functioning of State Consumer Helplines.
- State Governments may run consumer awareness programme and set up State Consumer Welfare Fund.
- State Governments to appoint Nodal Officers and ensure implementation of monitoring mechanism under the direct selling guidelines in 2016.
- For Consumer empowerment and protection, this Department has been providing funds to the State Governments through various schemes. States have to:
- Utilize the funds as per the time schedule of utilization.
- Provide land for construction of Consumer Fora buildings, legal metrology labs etc., causing delay in utilization of funds and outcome of the schemes implementation.
- Report awareness generation activities undertaken to this Department regularly.
All States and UTs shall make an action plan to complete on time-bound basis.