Food Corporation of India (FCI), the Union government's nodal agency for procurement and distribution of foodgrains, should focus on eastern states, leaving bulk purchase to state agencies in Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, the panel suggested in its report submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
     
Also, it wants grain storage to be outsourced to private and government agencies like state-owned Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) and state warehousing corporations.
    
The eight-member committee, which was set up in August 2014 under the chairmanship of BJP MP Shanta Kumar, to recommend a complete overhaul of the way the mammoth organisation, FCI, functions.
    
"The Prime Minister has asked the Department of Food and Public Distribution to expeditiously give its comments on the report so that it can be implemented in a time-bound manner," an official statement said.
    
Ashok Gulati, a member of this panel, made presentation on various recommendations. Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan was present on the occasion.
    
According to highly-placed sources, the panel has suggested that "FCI should hand over procurement to six states like Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha for wheat and rice."
    
The committee recommended that FCI procurement should focus on eastern belt, where farmers do not get MSP. The Centre has also launched a scheme to achieve the second green revolution in the easter states, including Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam.
    
With states imposing higher mandi taxes on wheat and rice, the panel favoured uniform tax of minimum 3 per cent and maximum 4 per cent and the same to be included in the minimum support price (MSP). In Punjab, this tax rate now on wheat and rice is 14.5 per cent.
    
Finance Minister Arun Jaitely had allocated Rs 1.15 lakh crore for food subsidy this year, of which Rs 92,000 crore is for FCI. In petroleum subsidy, government has already started direct benefit transfer. Direct cash transfer is expected to plug leakage and reduce subsidy bill.

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