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Wheat rotting but govt rents out godowns
NEW DELHI/BIND/SIRSA/PATNA, JUL 24 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 24 Jul. 2010 11:35 PM IST
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While the government uses shortage of space as an excuse to cover up for the rotting food grains in the country, the State Warehouse Corporation (SWC) of Uttar Pradesh has admitted that the government godowns have been rented out to private companies for profit.
CNN-IBN has learnt that, in Kanpur alone, out of 11 godowns belonging to the SWC, six have been rented out to Pepsi and one to ITC because they pay a higher rent for using the space than the government.
“We had vacant space in the godown, so we gave it to private businessmen to utilise it properly. The Corporation should not go in losses. We have orders from head office that we can give godowns on rent. And we have taken permission before giving it to private businessmen,” R P Diwedi, an SWC official.
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has reacted to the CNN-IBN expose on tonnes of grains rotting in some of the flood-hit states. He admitted that food grains were rotting due to lack of proper storage.
“I admit we don’t have enough storage facilities. It has been happening for many years, but we have undertaken many projects and it will be fine within a year,” says Pawar.
However, what is shocking is that space, sufficient for storing 3,500 metric tonnes of food grains is still lying vacant in warehouses.
And that’s not all. Villagers in Sirsa, Haryana say that foodgrain from the state’s warehouse, recently submerged under flood waters could have been saved if officials had responded in time. The recent floods reduced about one lakh quintals of wheat worth Rs 15 crore to waste in Haryana’s largest warehouse.
Villagers say it took flood waters five days to reach the warehouse, enough time for them to empty their houses of all belongings, something the state Warehousing Corporation didn’t do.
Swaran Singh Virk, a villager, says: “When Rome was burning Nero was playing his flute. We were drowning and Nero was playing his flute. The administration and officials must give up such utter callousness.”
The swollen Ghaggar river broke embankments near the village on the 11th of July. Bind is in a low lying area. The inundation took no one by surprise. By the time the warehouse keepers decided to move the grain, there was no one around to help.” Baldev Singh, another villager, said: “If efforts had been made earlier then something could have been done. It was not as if there were just a few bags of grain inside, there were several truckloads of it.”
Suresh Taria, assistant commandant in National Disaster Rescue Force, said: “The grain is totally destroyed. The government should have alerted us earlier and we could have helped. Now we couldn’t save anything.”
On the ground, the blame game has begun. Warehouse officials say they had no instructions to move the grain, a claim contradicted by the district collector. C G Rajnikanthan, district magistrate, Sirsa, said: “We gave notice from 11th onwards. We kept telling them to clear everything but they did not. It was their responsibility. They did not.”
However, the Godown Keeper, Attar Singh, says he is not to blame. He said: “We had no instructions from the government. No officer told us anything. We can’t take a grain out without orders.”
Rs.25 lakh foodgrain scam in Bihar flood relief

Bihar officials claim to have carried quintals of foodgrains for flood relief on two wheelers, instead of trucks, says a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that exposed corruption amounting to Rs.25 lakh in the state.
According to the CAG report 2009, tabled in the monsoon session of the state assembly, motorcycles and scooters were ostensibly used instead of trucks for ferrying food grains during August-October 2007 flood relief operation in Khagaria district. “Claims that 3,115.66 quintals of foodgrains worth Rs.25 lakh were transported appeared false and the money has been embezzled using fake truck numbers,” the CAG report said. The report said that a scooter was shown to have carried 92.49 quintals of foodgrains and three motorcycles were together shown to have carried 274.15 quintals of foodgrains meant for flood relief.
“Out of the 32 trucks used for transportation of foodgrains for flood relief, eight did not exist at all and were shown to have transported 891.58 quintals of food grains. Three registration numbers were of motorcycles, 15 of tractors, four of mini trucks and one each of a jeep and a scooter. “However, the official record of the Bihar State Food and Civil Supplies Corporation Limited in Khagaria revealed that foodgrains were lifted from Mansi railway station and transported through trucks,” the report said.

 
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