In a country where millions go hungry every day andwhere food prices are breaking the back of thecommon man, a bumper harvest is rotting ingodowns. Headlines Today correspondents acrossthe country found the shocking truth.Instead of trying to solve the problem, thegovernment plans to increase procurement and hasalso disallowed exports to meet the projectedrequirement of grain under the proposed FoodSecurity Act.Estimates are that food grain production includingwheat, rice, pulses and coarse cereals will go up to arecord 235.88 million tones this year compared tothe earlier record of 234.47 million tones in 2008-09.
Hundreds of tones of wheat and rice are rotting in godownsacross the nation - the reason being there is simply no space. So,while paddy sacks are dumped inside classrooms in AndhraPradesh, wheat is left to rot on the roadside in Kurkshetra andsacks can be seen lining up parking lots of residential areas in thefertile wheat belt of Punjab and Haryana.The current storage capacity is 62.8 million tones, which isproving inadequate. India had record rice and wheat stocks of65.6 million tones in its godowns in early June. Officials say theproblem will only get worse after the kharif harvest arrives bySeptember-October.
Madhya Pradesh, which has seen a huge increase in procurementlately, faces big problems. Forty-nine lakh metric ton of wheat wasprocured this year too despite the fact that over five lakh metrictons of wheat was already there in the godowns. Now, over 18lakh metric tons of grain are lying out in the open at the mercy ofthe weather Gods.Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said, "The food grains willrot soon. I have spoken to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh."The bumper rot is in spite of the Supreme Courts 2010 directiveto the Centre to ensure free distribution of food grains to thehungry poor of the country instead of allowing it to rot in the FCIgodowns.
Blame gameWith the government clearly unequipped to deal with the grimsituation, states and the Centre are now busy in a blame gamewhile the grain is not made available to those who need it - astarving population, BPL families or cattle.A bumper crop in states like Punjab, Bihar and Madhya Pradeshhas become a bane.Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Badal says, "We cant doanything. Its the decision of the government of India. Its been twoyears...we saw the crisis coming. The government of India wouldbe responsible for this crisis."There may be still time to salvage the situation if the states andthe central government were to take corrective measurestogether.
The Union Food Minister has charged the Bihar governmentof not lifting additional grain allotted to the state by theCentre.In Patnas Phulwarisharif, Headlines Today camerasrecorded an FCI godown complex overflowing with grain.Stored in the open, the monsoon is raining havoc on thestock.The state government has lashed out against New Delhi fornot issuing any real help. Food and Civil Supplies MinisterShyam Rajak says, "We need warehousing facilities to store12 lakh metric tons of grain, but the present capacity is onlyhalf of that. There is no assistance to remove rotting grainseither. We have written to Minister for Food & PublicDistribution K.V. Thomas and he promised to help us, but allthat was just lip service."
In MP, Chauhan said, “So much wheat has been bought by the government, but there is no place to store it. This was not anticipated even though by and large, the purchase was done by the agencies of MP government. We requested the government of India repeatedly to take the wheat, but they didnt, which has caused a lot of problems for us.”A lot of damage is already done and by the time the state government and the central government decide on a plan of action, all may be lost.
Distribute the foodFormer FCI CMD Alok Sinha told Headlines Today, "Theinflow-outflow management of the FCI is not good. Idont know what is governments plan is. But we shouldeither export the food grain or go to common man withthe Food Security Act.""Even if a small amount of food grain is wasted, this isnothing short of criminal. Instead of letting it rot, weshould export it. Why are we not investing in a world-class storage facility?" political analyst Paranjoy GuhaThakurtha asked.
"The finance ministry did nothing to prop up the storage facility," agriculture scientist Devender Sharma told Headlines Today.On being asked why the FCI is not distributing the food grains among the poor, Sinha said it is only the custodian and someone has to tell it. The government has to take a decision, he added.