From implementing Information Technology to linking Aadhaar during farmers’ registration, the Food Department has taken several initiatives for effective and hassle-free purchase of food grain, its distribution and timely payment to farmers, says Alok Kumar, Commissioner – Food, Government of Uttar Pradesh, in an interview with Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN).
How the Information Technology is helping the Food Department of Uttar Pradesh to bring an effective, swift and transparent purchase system for State farmers?
We are using Information Technology to deliver our services in a transparent manner. We have two wings — one is marketing wing and the other is supply wing. Through marketing wing procurement operations are executed. It includes wheat procurement and paddy procurement. During procurements, we always receive complaints regarding the buying or selling through a middle\man. In order to resolve these complaints, we have started an e-procurement module through which a farmer can register his land.
The registration can be done through any Public Service Centre. Registration is must for every farmer, as it helps us to get their bank account and lands’ details. In addition to that, processing of payments is easier for the farmers already registered with us. We are using the module for payments and ensuring that the payment is done within 72 hours. We are trying to link the module with revenue and paddy procurements to keep actual data of land a farmer is having. Along with that the information like the quantity of wheat bought and sold and also the names of buyer and seller are available on the public domain. Such transparency will help people to launch a complaint in case of any discrepancy in buying or selling of the wheat.
The module along with serving the public will also help us in getting the exact amount of fund we are having at different centres, quantity of wheat at a centre,etc. It is important develop a Public Distribution System (PDS) that supports the farmers and the department to avoid any discrepancies.
Please give details about the initiatives in this regard.
Other than marketing, we are using the module in the Public Distribution System (PDS) for Supply Chain management effectively. Through the module, anyone irrespective of being a Government officer or a common man can observe the movement of food grains from depot of Food Corporation of India (FCI) to block warehouse and then to distribution among the public.
Every release orders i.e. from FCI to Block warehouse and then to the public is available on the public domain. In all, it is about bringing transparency in the system. Every detail of ration quota holders including their ration card details is available with us. In coming months, timing for availing the food grains will also be available on the domain through our e-pos machines. Presently, the system is available only in the urban areas but soon we are going to implement it in the rural areas.
E-pos machines uses Aadhaar Card of a person for the distribution of the ration and around 13,000 shops in urban areas are using these machines. Rest 67,000 shops are in rural areas where soon we are going to implement it. The tenders for the same are going to be finalised very soon and we are going to cover the rural area in next three months.
Other than distributing ration to the right person, how Aadhaar is helping the department in its attempt for providing various services timely?
E-pos helps us to ensure that the ration is distributed to the correct person as it is done only after the verification of Aadhaar number. Since September 2017, Aaadhar authentication for distribution of ration is done for around 85 per cent of the population in urban areas. It gave administration the confidence of providing ration to authentic people, reduced the Government’s expenses and also restricted fake people from receiving any benefits.
In addition to these initiatives, we are also trying to store Aadhaar details of every person seeking benefits of ration distribution by June 30. It is mandatory under the Act as well as by the directives of the Court. People registered under the module without Aadhaar either have to submit the enrollmennt slip or have to provide the declaration that soon he or she will be applying for it. Aadhaar will help us to get the details of persons having more than one Ration Card. We are also using social media at a large level to make people aware about these initiatives.
How the department is trying to bring transparency to the purchase of foodgrains from farmers?
To restrict middleman in buying and selling of foodgrains, we have allowed buying only 300 quintals of it from one weighing machine. SMSes have been sent to over seven lakh farmers for schemes related to wheat purchase. Measurement department has been asked to inspect all the electronic weighing machines to avoid any kind of discrepancies in weight measurements. Revenue department has been asked to cross verify the details of wheat purchase from the farmers.
What are the various initiatives taken by the Government to curb the inconvenience caused to farmers at purchase centres?
The centres have been instructed by the Government to maintain a token register for avoiding any inconvenience to farmers. After entering the details of farmers — name, address, and mobile number, farmers are given a token of probable date for the purchase of their foodgrains. Officials are also advised by the government to give a purchase date to farmers within 10 days for the purchase.
Recently, Uttar Pradesh recorded 100 per cent rise in wheat procurement at 3 million, what measures were taken to make it possible?
The wheat procurement process was started on April 1 and would continue till June 15 even as 60 per cent of the target has already been achieved. Hon’ble Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath issued strict directives to the State Food Department to ensure that a sufficient number of procurement centres are set up for the smooth procurement process.
The government established around 5,000 procurement centres in this regard. Moreover, in his recent visit to Lucknow, Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan reviewed the progress of wheat procurement and held a meeting with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) officials. He also made every official believe that the temporary shortage of jute sacks for packaging wheat had been sorted out and it would not hamper prospective procurement. In March 2018, the Adityanath government had approved the wheat purchase policy and announced Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 1,735 per quintal (100 kg), apart from an additional Rs 10 per quintal as transportation charges.