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Centre to allow private traders to export wheat
The committee of secretaries (CoS) has decided to open up wheat exports to private traders and a notification is expected soon.
The agricultural procurement policy of the government has outlived its use by date label and in our view opening trade in agricultural commodities is a welcome step. Till now denying farmers access to markets was a key element of India’s food and agricultural policy and this was attained through instruments like procurement levies at below market prices or zoning regulations that prevented free movement of grain, monopoly exports through commodity boards or through prohibition of exports, the policy object was to acquire commodities cheaply. Draconian laws like The Essential Commodities Act were invoked, limiting the stocks that could be held by private traders and giving the government indiscriminate powers to inspect and raid their premises. However, expanding markets for agriculturists is important to get them out of the vicious circle of debt and penury. This has to be a commitment to the farmers and not just ad-hoc responses to the prevailing market conditions.
Increased penalty for firms unwilling to dispense data
The statistics ministry has started the process to operationalise the newly passed Collection of Statistics Act, 2008, by framing draft rules and guidelines that will enable better data collection and dissemination.
Our view is that the Central Statistical Authority of the country that is governed by a statute should be vested with enough powers in order to collect various statistics in a systematic manner. In order to do this the statute should be strict and penalties should be an enough deterrent for non compliance. In addition to the firms not dispensing data, another problem is the multiplicity of government authorities that house data. It is important that the line ministries recognize the importance of a single centralized statistical office and extend their cooperation. More often than not these ministries do not support the efforts of the authority for data collection.