Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Food grain storage -Where is the quality oversight?

If government orders can set things right, every thing in this country should have worked as they ought to have!Alas, in the scheme of things in the agenda of babus who rule this country, "ordering" is the only duty they have to perform and whether they are obeyed or implemented is none of their business!. Latest one hears is about an "order" by the Goan government to the PDS players in the state to obtain license from Delhi for grain storage to "ensure" quality of grains supplied by PDS to the card holders. What is not clear is how getting a license will improve the quality unless there is a ground level infrastructure to pick up samples, assess quality in a well equipped laboratory and haul up those who indulge in distributing unfit grains to the consumers. Here is a take on this tall order from Goan babus to the state PDS dealers. 

"Goa civil supplies department has stated that all its godowns across the state have to obtain a food safety license to ensure that quality of grains is maintained. The department has also asked for a monthly report from joint mamlatdars about damaged, inferior or infested grains found in godowns from where the grains are supplied to fair price shops through the public distribution system. The directions are mentioned in a circular issued by director of civil supplies Vikas Gaunekar.The joint mamlatdars will also have to educate fair price shop owners about maintaining quality of grains and to take measures to prevent pest infestation. There are more than a dozen godowns in the 12 talukas."

One wonders whether there has been any case in the last 2-3 decades of any food inspector daring to confront PDS system and hauling any ration shop owners or the warehouse owners (FCI or State agencies) for violating food standards? India is a country where public agencies are holy cows which cannot be touched by quality control agencies, be it food grains or the milk. If these QC agencies had done their job efficiently without fear, the quality complaints so rampant from consumers about unfit grains being supplied would not have reached Himalayan dimensions to day. Even private players manufacturing and selling sub-standard foods are rarely hauled up with annual conviction hardly in the range of 700-1000 in a country with a population of 1.2 billion! The truth is that food standards agencies in almost all states are grossly understaffed with archaic testing infrastructure though there are loud proclamations from Delhi that crores and crores of rupees have been "budgeted". Is this some sense of pessimism expressed here? Of course past experience has taught the citizens in this country to be pessimistic about every thing government says from time to time! 


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