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Punjab govt failed to prevent rot of food grains
Published on 26 Oct. 2010 12:26 AM IST
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Fifty-five thousand metric tonnes of food grains rotted in Punjab alone and thousands of tonnes more across the nation. The pictures of rotting grains might have shocked us, but not Adesh Pratap Singh, the Food Minister of Punjab and certainly not Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The documents accessed by CNN-IBN through an RTI revealed that this rot was expected. A copy of a letter by Punjab's Food Minister in January 2009 addressed to TKA Nair, Principle Secretary to the Prime Minister in January 2009, regarding export of four million tonne of wheat from Punjab, and the creation of Long Term Storage Capacity. The PMO directed the letter to the Food Ministry, which then directed it to the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The Punjab Minister's letter uncannily painted a picture of the rot that was about to unfold in 2010.
Punjab govt vs FCI
The Punjab government warned that there will be shortage of storage of 80 lakh metric tonne. The FCI hasn't created required capacity. While the FCI says it has hired spaces as per requirement.
The Punjab government pointed it out that Plinths (CAP) adequate for storing wheat was only for six months, and then it would start to spoil
The FCI said wheat could be kept in good condition in the Plinths for two years. Disputes between Punjab and Government of India about damaged wheat runs into thousands of crores. Grain worth thousands of crores in open yard will rot. Therefore, it should be allowed to export four million metric tonne of Punjab's wheat. But FCI refused saying, less procurement may tilt balance from surplus to shortage. The ban on exports was not relaxed. However, the most worrying part is the fact that the need for exports was provoked by lack of adequate infrastructure.
Punjab said the FCI storage policy doesn't address its long term storage needs. At best, it's a short term fire fighting exercise.
The FCI retaliated by saying policy can't be called short-term fire fighting exercise. In fact there is no need for fresh policy. Punjab said, despite several letters over six months and assurances, FCI didn't transport the wheat in open yards and low lying areas. While FCI said efforts are on to liquidate stocks of 2007-08 this year (2010).
Moreover, Punjab informed to prevent more national wastage, there is an immediate need to create long term storage capacity like silos for storing upto 20 Lakh metric tonne. On the contrary, the FCI said, Punjab can build silos on its own. As the coming months would show, not enough was done to prevent the rotten food grains - a clear case of policy failing to respond in time.

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