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Govt will punish officers for grain damage: Pawar
NEW DELHI, AUG 10 (AGENCIES)
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Published on 10 Aug. 2010 9:29 PM IST
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: Weeks after CNN-IBN showed tonnes of wheat submerged under water at a procurement centre in Sirsa, Haryana, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has promised action against the errant officers.
Pawar informed Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that punitive action has been taken against officials responsible for instances of rotting of foodgrains at various FCI godowns.
Replying to a Calling Attention notice on rotting of foodgrains at various FCI godowns, Pawar said foodgrains stock in the Central Pool has increased three-folds since 2006, which has ensured better and remunerative prices to farmers.
“However it has caused a strain on storage capacities with FCI and state government agencies involved in procurement,” he said, adding that higher MSP over the last few years coupled with better outreach has led to higher procurement in the last three years.
He said recently there have been reports of damaged foodgrains in godowns of FCI and state agencies in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand due to rain and floods. “However the quantity damaged must be seen in the perspective of total quantities handled and larger quantities kept in Covered and Plinth (CAP) storage because of heavier procurement,” Pawar said.
He said FCI officials found damaged wheat stocks at various storage facilities in UP, Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand after inspecting them.
“FCI has initiated disciplinary action against a number of officers in UP and has also suspended eight officers. Some senior officers have been instructed to monitor movement and handling of foodgrain stocks,” the minister said.
He added that teams have been deputed from headquarters and zonal offices of FCI for inspection of storage conditions in the depots.
Expressing serious concern over rotting of foodgrains in various FCI godowns in the country, the opposition NDA lashed out at the government saying it is a “glaring lapse”.
Seeking clarifications from Pawar, M Venkaiah Naidu (BJP) said, “It is the duty of the government to create additional space. Government has miserably failed in its duty to supplement storage capacity.”
He said the figures given by the minister about increase in foodgrain stock “are far from reality” and there is a glaring lapse on the part of Food Corporation of India and Government for not creating facilities for storage of foodgrains.
Attributing the situation to “official apathy” and “callous attitude” of the government, Naidu said the issues need to be addressed on a war footing.
He said portfolios like Agriculture and Food (held by Sharad Pawar) need separate ministers as “food is a major issue.”
Manohar Joshi (Shiv Sena) said Pawar had requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reduce his burden but the “Prime Minister is not doing that.”
He demanded a joint parliamentary committee should be set up to inquire into the issue of storage of foodgrains and said the government does not seem to be attentive to the issue. N K Singh (JD-U) demanded decentralisation of storage system and asked whether the government has any plan to enhance the storage capacity of small farmers.
Singh asked whether the government will consider a revamp of the Public Distribution System.
Shobhana Bhartia (Nominated) said the problem is very deep rooted and cannot have a quick fix solution.
She said “trust deficit” is putting off private sector from participating in the initiative to create additional storage space. “Many godowns are lying vacant due to flip-flops of FCI,” she said.
R C Singh (CPI), Mahendra Mohan (Samajwadi Party) and M V Mysura Reddy (TDP) also sought clarifications.

 
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