New Delhi, June 27: Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on Thursday acceded to the request of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to hold a joint meeting with the Union Finance Minister to resolve the Rs 31000 crore food account loan legacy issue. Paswan agreed to organise the meeting after the Union Budget session, an official spokesperson said after Captain Amarinder Singh called on the Minister here this afternoon.
The Union Minister has also agreed to allow Punjab to create additional storage space to enable the state to address the problem of acute shortage of storage space in this Rabi season. Modalities for the same will soon be worked out, said the spokesperson. Captain Amarinder also succeeded in securing relaxation in lustre loss in wheat, resulting from the unseasonal heavy rains that lashed the state during the season.
During his meeting, the Chief Minister pointed out the Rs 31000 crore food loan legacy issue, inherited from the previous government, had already been referred to a special committee headed by Member NITI Aayog Ramesh Chand, who is also the Member of 15th Finance Commission. The Committee had been mandated to look into all aspects of the Legacy Debt of Punjab government arising out of accumulated CCL (Food Credit Gap) with reference to Food Corporation of India/Department of Food and Public Distribution.
The CM sought Paswan’s personal intervention to expedite the matter. With regard to lustre loss, Captain informed the Union Food Minister that Government of India had only allowed relaxation in for nine districts with effect from 8th May 2019, by when bulk of the purchase had been completed in the state. The state had sought relaxation, through a letter to GoI on April 26, 2019, for the entire quantity of wheat purchased during the season across the state, and should be given relaxation w.e.f April 26, when it first sought FCI inspection.
Expressing concern over slow movement of stocks, the Chief Minister told Paswan that the state government was grappling with acute shortage of storage space for foodgrain. He mentioned that state agencies were currently stocking 160 Lakh MT of wheat and 107 Lakh MT of rice, while 96 Lakh MT of wheat was lying in the open, while 10.5 Lakh MT of wheat purchased more than a year ago was still being stocked in the open. As a result of slow movement of food grains from the state, the state would face a major challenge for scientific storage of wheat next year, he added.
Referring to withholding of reimbursement of arhtiya charges and administrative charges, the Chief Minister urged Paswan to immediately release these charges to the state. These charges were paid to the arhtiyas as per provisions of the Punjab State Agriculture Produce Markets Act, 1961 and administrative charges were used for maintenance of stocks as well as payment of salaries and other establishment expenses, said Captain Amarinder.
GoI had withheld these charges on account of the failure of the state to implement the Public Financial Management System (PFMS), which allows the Central Government to see online the transfer of MSP payments into the bank accounts of the farmer. However, the Chief Minister pointed out that the state had already uploaded details of 6 Lakh of the more than 10 Lakh farmers and was committed to implementing PFMS. But it was a time consuming exercise and more than 20,000 arhtiyas were required to be trained on PFMS module as payments are routed through the arhtiyas, he said, adding that even Haryana had not yet implemented PFMS.
On the issue of withholding of custody & maintenance charges, the Chief Minister requested Paswan to immediately reimburse these charges to the state on the basis of actual expenditure incurred. He pointed out that Rs. 750 crore has been withheld on account of storage of wheat in Open Plinths after 2007, even though the charges were being paid earlier. Similarly, the state also incurred an expenditure of Rs. 608 crore on custody and maintenance charges. Against this, GoI provisionally released Rs. 300 crore and the balance was held back due to a clarification that has to be issued by it.
Prominent amongst other who accompanied the Chief Minister were Food Minister, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, MPs Preneet Kaur, Santokh Chaudhry and Gurjit Aujla, CM’s Media Advisor Raveen Thukral, Principal Secretary Tejveer Singh and Special Principal Secretary Gurkirat Kirpal Singh