‘No action by centre to probe foodgrain rotting in godowns’

August 13th, 2010 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) Even as tonnes of foodgrains are rotting in Food Corporation of India (FCI) warehouses across the country, little has been done by the union agriculture ministry to address the issue, an RTI activist said Friday.
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had last year promised the Lok Sabha that his ministry would set up a panel to probe the issue and take corrective action, according to a Right to Information (RTI) finding.

Between 1997 and 2007, 1.83 lakh tonnes of wheat, 6.33 lakh tonnes of rice, 2.20 lakh tonnes of paddy and 111 lakh tonnes of maize were damaged in various FCI warehouses, revealed Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, who filed the RTI query on the issue.

“A team has not been identified so far, leave alone the enquiry. It’s been a year since it was discussed in the Lok Sabha. When tonnes of foodgrains are rotting and millions of people starving, the lackadaisical approach by the agriculture minister is alarming,” he told IANS.

Meanwhile, an RTI query filed Jan 1, 2010 indicates that 10,688 lakh tonnes of foodgrains were found damaged in FCI depots which was enough to feed over six lakh people for over 10 years.

“All reports on rotting of foodgrains are not factually correct and quite exaggerated. There are only certain cases of damage and we have suspended some officials,” Sharad Pawar Friday informed the Rajya Sabha during question hour.

However, he had admitted in the upper house Tuesday that the rotting of foodgrains was a ’shameful’ fact. He had said that over 11,700 tonnes of foodgrains worth Rs.6.86 crore were found ‘damaged’ in government godowns.

“The government has prepared a comprehensive plan to create 149.4 lakh tonnes of storage space to prevent damage of food grains. These will be built by FCI through private entrepreneurs and central and state warehousing corporations,” Pawar said.

When IANS spoke to a close associate of Sharad Pawar, he said: “The process of checking the FCI godowns is an ongoing process and time to time we have been constituting teams and punishing those found to be violating the rules. Recently, some arrests were made in Uttar Pradesh.”

Keeping the RTI findings as evidence, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Bangalore Ananth Kumar asked Pawar during the parliament session last year: “When malnourishment is a huge problem in the country, will agriculture minister institute a departmental enquiry into such a huge loss of foodgrains because of the negligence of the officials of the FCI and take some corrective action.”

Answering to this, Sharad Pawar had said: “I will be happy to constitute a team to go into details, get the report and take corrective actions.”

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