Saturday, November 12, 2011


"Passing the buck" is a favorite game among the bureaucrats who want to shirk their responsibility. It is a rare instance when a bureaucrat is taken to task for not performing the assigned duties. In India bribe taker is invariably not punished while the bribe givers are relentlessly pursued for appropriate action! Here is an instance of India's grain handling monolith coming put with a policy to do away with quality inspection assessment practices and asking the state governments to do that function under the so called decentralization policy, the excuse being shortage of personnel. How can an organization like this, vested with ensuring food security in the country can do such a policy turn around is beyond the comprehension of many concerned citizens. Probably this strategy might have been chalked out to deflect serious criticism leveled against FCI for delivering sub standard grains to PDS beneficiaries and for allowing a portion of the grains procured to rot in the open from time to time. Since it is the prime responsibility of FCI to ensure food quality and safety for which it has been provided with adequate funds and personnel, how can it say that it is short of personnel? It is unfortunate that FCI is playing a dangerous game taking risk with the lives of millions of PDS beneficiaries through this rash action. Will the GOI support such a policy? One can only watch the situation with some alarm. 

"Reeling under staff shortage, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has declined to carry out quality control inspection of foodgrains procured by State agencies and stored in their stockyards. In a letter, the General Manager of FCI has conveyed the status to the Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Department which, in turn, has asked all Collectors and Civil Supplies Officers to ensure that quality is maintained from FCI depots to distribution points. The Centre had, in August, directed states to ensure procurement of stocks as per the prescribed quality standards and maintain the same in the storage, till it is taken over by FCI. In fact, under the decentralised procurement (DCP) scheme, procurement of food grains and safe maintenance during storage till distribution is the responsibility of the State Government. Similarly, the Government has to ensure quality of food grains received from depots of FCI till the stock is distributed among the beneficiaries through fair price shops.� The primary responsibility of maintaining quality of food grains will be the concern of the State. Amidst all this, FCI is facing serious shortage of quality control personnel. In the last nine years, the total� strength� of quality control staff has decreased from 5,111 to 4,001. In view of the shortage, FCI has conveyed that it may not undertake routine inspection of wheat and paddy procured by State agencies and stored in their godowns. However, inspection of wheat and rice delivered at FCI godowns will continue to be undertaken by the quality control staff of the corporation. In case of complaints received about poor quality of food grains procurement and maintenance of stocks by the State, FCI will inspect the stocks jointly with quality control staff of the State agencies and a joint report generated. The corporation has made it clear that it will be the responsibility of the Government to inspect quality of stocks issued by its agencies to respective fair price shops".

It looks like a "divide" is being created between states and the Center which may probably help for playing the "blame game" which will weaken the very foundation of the federal democratic structure of the country, the ultimate sufferer being the poor consumer, caught in the cross fire. If there is a shortage of personnel what prevented the FCI to recruit more to reach the optimum figure essential to carry out its tasks efficiently? None else but the FCI has to be blamed for both serious shortage of  storage facilities to protect the grains procured as well as its inability to "see beyond its nose" to set up necessary training infrastructure to turn out technical staff required for quality checking and other related technical activities. It is time GOI revisits the objective of setting up FCI and the way it is working now! Why not convert FCI into a corporate entity like some of the giant grain companies like Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM) with sound economic rationale? While it should have sufficient infrastructure to procure, store and transport its grains, similar organizations at the state level can be purely distribution entities, buying and distributing the food grains to PDS out lets on behalf of GOI. Government subsidies can go directly to the state entities to buy and deliver the grains to targeted beneficiaries.


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