Foodgrain worth millions lost to official apathy

July 27th, 2010 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

By Jaideep Sarin
Bani (Haryana), July 27 (IANS) Everyone in this village in Haryana’s Sirsa district saw flood water entering the area earlier this month but that did not move officials. Not till nearly 200,000 bags of wheat worth millions of rupees were lost to the floods.

The state government’s warehouse at Bani, nearly 300 km from capital Chandigarh, presents a picture of official apathy that has not only resulted in huge stocks of foodgrain literally going down the drain but also polluted the air with the stink from the rotting wheat in and around the village.

The loss of over 100,000 quintals of wheat in the flooding, that happened July 17 when embankments of river Ghaggar gave away, could be anything between Rs.100-150 million (Rs.10-15 crore), district officials said.

The village itself lies in a depression, because of which the flood waters entered and is taking time to recede.

Accompanied by district officials, a central team of officials from the consumer affairs ministry and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) visited the flood-ravaged warehouse in Bani Sunday.

After making an initial assessment of the loss caused by the flooding of the warehouse, which still stands in 3-5 feet of water, Jitender Narayan, head of the official team, said: “The team has assessed the loss and a report to this effect would soon be submitted to the central government.”

Even before the water recedes in the village and the warehouse, a blame-game over who should take responsibility for the huge loss has already started.

Sirsa Deputy Commissioner C.G. Rajnikathan and local villagers said that adequate warning of the flood had been given on July 11 itself.

“We gave notice from 11th (July) onwards. We kept telling them to clear everything but they did not. It was their responsibility,” said Rajnikathan.

Villagers too say that while they moved out with their families and belongings, the warehouse officials did nothing.

“If the officials had made efforts earlier, something could have been done. The store (godown) had several truckloads of wheat bags which could not be moved out at the last moment,” Baldev Singh, a villager, said.

Said Suresh Taria, National Disaster Relief Force assistant commandant: “The wheat is totally destroyed. If the authorities had alerted us earlier we could have helped.”

But officials in-charge of the warehouse said they got no orders to move the stocks till July 16. And when the flood waters came, they had no time and resources to move the huge stocks.

“We received no instructions from the government. No officer told us anything. We cannot take a grain out without orders,” warehouse storekeeper Attar Singh said.

FCI consultant Ashok Kumar said the exact loss could be assessed only after the flood water recedes. “Some of the wheat bags stored in the warehouse could be safe. After the water recedes, the whole stock of the wheat would be brought out from the godown and sorted out as per the norms set by FCI.”

“The wheat that is consumable as per norms, would be used for human consumption and the damaged wheat would be used for animals and birds,” he said.

The wheat stored in other godowns in the district, barring warehouse in Bani, have not suffered any damage, Kumar added.

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