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PM envoy to clear food law hurdles

Imphal, Nov. 12: Union minister of state for food K.V. Thomas today said the northeastern states would implement the food security law by February or March next year.

He, however, stressed the need to plug the “leakage” in the public distribution system.

Thomas arrived here this afternoon on a two-day visit to Manipur to assess the preparation and discuss difficulties faced by the Ibobi Singh government in implementing the law. The visit is part of the programme of the Union minister to tour all the states in the region to help them prepare for the implementation of the law.

“The Centre had given instructions to all states to implement the law. The northeastern states will be ready to implement the law by February or March next year,” Thomas told reporters at Imphal airport.

Thomas, however, stressed the need to plug the “leakages” in PDS by the state governments before implementation of the law.

Official sources said Thomas during his stay would discuss the problems faced by the Manipur government in implementing the food law and inaugurate a new Food Corporation of India (FCI) godown at Mayangkhang in Senapati district, about 90km from here.

They said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had deputed Thomas to hold consultations with the northeastern states after they conveyed to the Centre that it was not practical for them to roll out the UPA government’s “game changer” law.

Maintaining that they did not have the resources or manpower, the states, including Sikkim, had demanded more foodgrain allocation as they had “negligible” local production. Ibobi Singh also urged the Centre to provide “extensive support” to meet the requirements like construction of godowns and logistic support.

“Manipur is very keen to implement the law but it is not yet prepared owing to many drawbacks in infrastructure, logistical requirement, lack of funds and manpower and many other problems, which the other states may not have faced,” Ibobi Singh had told the Centre.

Thomas said the Centre had accepted a proposal by the Manipur government to open a regional FCI office and the Prime Minister had instructed him to take care of the matter.

“The Prime Minister has agreed to the proposal and written to me about it. We will depute officials here and start the process very soon,” the minister said.

Thomas met Ibobi Singh today to discuss the requirements of his state in implementing the law.

The food corporation will have a full-fledged administrative set-up in Guwahati for the smooth implementation of food security law. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi laid the foundation stone of the FCI administrative building in Guwahati today in the presence of Thomas.

There are 77 FCI depots in the region at present with a storage capacity of 4,68,000 metric tonnes.