India: A meeting on rising prices in India, chaired by Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, recommended the use of technology and GPS to track vehicles carrying essential commodities for better management of the public distribution system (PDS). The meeting at the Prime Minister’s House attended by eight chief ministers and his senior cabinet colleagues, was convened specially to discuss the rising inflation that is feared to cross the double-digit mark.
The meeting recommended more involvement of Panchayati Raj (village bodies) institutions in working of the PDS. The meeting came against the backdrop of India’s annual food inflation based on wholesale prices rising to 17.7 percent for the week ended March 27 from 16.35 percent the week before. Over the past 52 weeks, pulses have become costlier by 32.6 percent, milk by 21.12 percent, wheat by 13.34 percent and rice by 8.8 percent, while the prices of potatoes and onions have started easing.
The core group was set up in February with the chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattishgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal as members.
In addition, attendees at the meeting were Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council head C. Rangarajan.
According to officials, six main issues were discussed during the meeting:
– How to raise the country’s farm productivity,
– How to bridge the gap between prices at farm-gate and retail market,
– How the Essential Commodities Act can be strengthened to prevent hoarding,
– How to ensure better delivery of food and strengthen the public distribution system,
– How the warehousing network in the country can be augmented, and
– How to ensure better seeds and fertilisers at fair prices to farmers.