Sunday, May 12, 2013


Indian nation has to thank the Supreme Court of the land for rapping at the knuckles of the political masters who claim they are "governing" the country, for the awfully sorry situation vis-a-vis food grain storage and mindless food wastage. It is a reflection of the total apathy of the political class, irrespective of their class or color or creed, that adequate precautions were not taken to save the food grains so painfully produced by the teeming millions of farmers through their sweat and blood by not expanding the storage capacity in commensurate with ever increasing production. Probably no where in the world except India one can witness the colossal loss of food year after after year through sheer negligence and callousness of unbelievable magnitude. In the latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has made a scathing indictment of the government of the day for its continued neglect of food grains and granaries of the country.

'The national auditor highlighted the increasingly inadequate storage capacity of the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the government agency entrusted with food management and the procurement of food grains. This storage gap and other policies of the FCI led to food spoiling in a nation where millions still go hungry everyday. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said in its report that was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday that the storage gap widened to 331.85 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) from 59.95 LMT in the six-year period between 2007 and 2012. The report said efforts to address the issue were inadequate. "The storage gap in FCI against the central pool stock witnessed a steady increase during the period 2006-07 to 2011-12," it said. "Against the storage gap of 332 LMT (March 2012), GoI (government of India)/FCI envisaged capacity addition of only 163 LMT during the six-year period under various augmentation programmes. Of this, only 34 LMT was completed (March 2012)." Even as storage capacity remained inadequate, existing capacity was not completely utilized. The auditor observed that utilization of existing storage capacity in various states and union territories was less than 75% in the majority of the months between 2006-07 and 2011-12. This amounted to unnecessary expenditure of Rs.376 crore during the period as FCI didn't use the space it had in Punjab and Haryana, the auditor said. Though there was a steady increase in the food stock procured by government agencies, it didn't match allocation requirements under various government schemes. "The average food grains procurement of 514 LMT during the period 2006-07 to 2011-12 was lower than the average allocation of 593 LMT made by the government to states under the targeted public distribution system (TPDS) and other welfare schemes (OWS)," the report said. CAG highlighted the absence of specifications for maximum and manageable stock levels to be maintained in the central pool and of minimum buffer norms. It added that the existing buffer stock policy does not indicate which agency is primarily responsible for maintaining the minimum buffer stock level for the country as a whole, which adversely affects accountability and transparency in the management of food grains. The report said the government doesn't follow a specific policy for fixing the minimum support price (MSP) relative to the cost of production. "It was observed that the margin of MSP fixed over the cost of production varied between 29% and 66% in case of wheat, and 14% and 60% in case of paddy during the period 2006-07 to 2011-12. Increase in MSP had a direct bearing on statutory changes levied on purchase of food grains by different state governments," said the report, adding that this eventually resulted in the rising acquisition cost of food grains".

There will be blame game and "passing on the buck" statements regarding the reasons for this sordid affair but fact still remains that those culpable for this criminal negligence are never brought to books for their shirking of responsibility. Government "spin doctors" adept at interpreting any indictment as unavoidable, will continue to present a picture as not so discouraging, though more than 200 million people in this country are supposed to be going to bed every day on a hungry stomach! Even to day a non-repentant ruling regime does not seem to be serious about the plans to expand storage capacity and in stead trotting out tall claims about future plans to remedy the situation without really meaning a single word of what they are saying! This raises the logical question as to when this country is going to be ever salvaged from the self seeking politicians parading under the garb of democracy!  


No comments: