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Millennium Post

India keeps 3 lakh poor hungry, as grains rot

The Indian hunger story shows no sign of ending, as the latest figures on foodgrain wastage in the country shows that the Food Corporation of India [FCI] needs to travel long distance in protecting food stock placed in its custody.

Millennium Post has learnt that in the financial year 2011-12, about 3,338 tonnes of food grain has been found to be damaged in FCI warehouses. Though the figure has come down from earlier years, it continues to be high enough to cause concern. In 2009-10, the FCI reported a damage of 6,702 tonnes and in 2010-11, the damage was about 6,346 tonnes.

In the last financial year, the maximum quantity of food grains which has been found to be damaged or remained non-issuable was in Maharashtra, despite the fact that the agriculture minister Sharad Pawar hails from this state. As per the report, about 1,473 tonnes of food grains have been damaged in Maharashtra, 477 tonnes in West Bengal, 442 tons in Assam and 258 tons in Uttar Pradesh. Earlier in 2008-09, about 189 tons of food grain was damaged in Maharashtra. The FCI has issued these figures in response to an RTI query made by the social activist Tajinder Singh Bagga.

Apart from Maharashtra, the states where a rise in the damaged or non-issuable grains has been reported include Jharkhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Chhattisgarh.

According to Reetika Khera, an Indian economist and social activist, food grains get damaged during the storage in FCI storage spaces due to pest attack, leakages in godowns, procurement of poor quality stock, spillages during movement and handling of stocks, exposure to rains and a lot more. ‘It is very important to take necessary measures to avoid such damage,’ she added.

In the last five decades, several policies and programmes have been designed by the government to ensure the availability of food grains to all sections of the society, especially the weaker sections. But the wastage of food grains points to grave criminality, as even the Supreme Court has passed strictures against the government on the issue and framed guidelines to avoid it.

The FCI introduced a new scheme Private Entrepreneurs Guarantee [PEG] to control the damage. This scheme was sanctioned to Central Warehousing Corporation, State Warehousing Corporation and private investors. However, the FCI has not been able to meet the target for constructing storage facility.
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