The need to set up the task force arose in view of overwhelming evidence that the current subsidy policy has resulted in waste, leakage, adulteration and inefficiency
New Delhi: Concerned over leakage and wastage of public funds, the government on Monday constituted a task force under Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chief Nandan Nilekani to suggest ways to provide kerosene, cooking gas and fertiliser subsidies to intended beneficiaries directly, reports PTI.
The inter-ministerial task force to streamline the subsidy distribution mechanism comes within three weeks of a brutal incident of burning alive an additional district collector Yashwant Sonawane in Maharashtra while he was trying to check illegal hoarding of kerosene and petrol.
The Centre provided a subsidy of Rs14,257 crore on LPG and Rs17,364 crore on kerosene during 2009-10. It had spend Rs53,000 crore towards fertiliser subsidy. However, it is feared that only a fraction of these amounts reached the intended beneficiaries.
The task force, which has been asked to submit its interim report within four months, will suggest "a model of direct transfer of subsidies ...by re-engineering existing systems, processes and procedures in the implementation process", said a finance ministry release.
The need to set up the task force arose in view of "overwhelming evidence that this (current) policy is resulting in waste, leakage, adulteration and inefficiency. Therefore, it is imperative that the system of delivering the subsidised kerosene be reformed urgently," it added.
The committee is headed by former Infosys chief Mr Nilekani, who at present is the UIDAI chairman. The panel will include secretaries from ministries of finance, chemicals and fertilisers, agriculture, food, petroleum and rural development.
Besides designing the IT framework, the task force will align the systems with the issuance of the UID numbers and suggest changes in the administration and supply chain management.
The recommendations of the task force, the statement said, will be implemented on pilot basis by the concerned ministries and the final report would include the results of such projects.
At present, the government provides kerosene at subsidised rates through the public distribution system (PDS) to families living below poverty line (BPL). LPG is provided a subsidised rate to households.
As regards fertilises, the government provide subsidy to companies so that farm inputs, which include urea and imported fertilisers, can be provided to the farmers at cheaper rates.
"It is not possible to differentiate the segments for which the subsidy should be given in this (fertiliser) sector.
There is a need to evolve a suitable mechanism for direct subsidies to individuals who are entitled to them," it said.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh says issue under the consideration of expert committee
New Delhi: Lavasa Corporation has applied afresh for environmental clearance for the first phase of its Rs3,000 crore hill city project near Pune which will now be considered by a high-level committee.
"They (Lavasa) have applied for phase-I clearance, which is being considered," environment minister Jairam Ramesh said Monday evening. The minister said that the matter is being considered by an Expert Appraisal Committee, reports PTI.
"Phase I is 2,000 hectares. Phase II is 3,000 hectares. And if I recall right... the application for the 2,000 hectares is being considered. And two weeks from now... three weeks from now... the application for the next phase, which is already on...3,000 hectares...will be considered," the minister said.
Asked when a decision was expected, Mr Ramesh said, "I don't know. The committee is meeting. I don't interfere in their functioning. They are meeting to decide about phase I clearance." He said Lavasa had not got the clearance from the environment point of view.
"They went to court. The matter is in court. Now they have applied for the environmental clearance. Today and tomorrow it is being considered in our ministry. It is going through the due diligence process now," Mr Ramesh said.
In an order issued last month, the environment ministry held that the project was "unauthorised" and it directed Lavasa Corporation to maintain status-quo at the construction site. However, the ministry also said that it was prepared to consider the project on "merits" subject to fulfilment of certain conditions, but no further construction should be undertaken for now.
On 17 January, the ministry said in its order that could consider the project subject to imposition of penalties, the creation of an Environmental Restoration Fund, and the formulation of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment and management plan.
Cotton prices are near their highest level in more than a decade. Leather and polyester costs are also jumping. Copper recently hit its highest level in about 40 years. Iron ore prices are also up. Prices for corn, sugar, wheat, beef, pork and coffee are also soaring.