Saturday, December 6, 2014

The rotting paddy and an irresponsible government-Indian tragedy

Here is a story that will warm the cockles of animal activists and members of the "People For Animals" movement about the generous government of Karnataka State which is helping rats grow on the food stock stored by it for feeding the poor people through PDS. It is reported that the government procured about 5.42 lakh quintals of paddy by paying a prices that was about 20% more than the prevailing market rate, paid in addition, a whopping 1.17 crore for storing them in 93 godowns without proper care, got into a tiff with the rice millers regarding hulling charges and left the paddy to the mercy of rats! What is interesting is the utter lack of farsightedness on the part of the government babus in allowing this situation to develop into such a sorry state that can deprive the poor people of edible quality rice!. Read further about this story below: 

"The State government had purchased the paddy from Food Corporation of India last year at a cost of Rs 86.56 crore by paying Rs 1,600 per quintal, to be supplied to fair price shops. But as the paddy was not hulled, it was left to rot in the godowns. While the paddy was available at Rs 1,300 to Rs 1,400 per quintal at the open market, the government had purchased it for Rs 1,600 support price, and in total stored 5.41 lakh quintals in godowns across the district. Out of this, hulling was done only for 47,000 quintals. As all the godowns were full, the purchase of paddy at support price was stopped in the last days. The private godowns were also utilised for storing paddy and the officials have no account on the rent paid so far to them. The government had earlier paid Rs 120 per quintal for hulling. Later, when it slashed the price to Rs 10, it was opposed by the mill owners, who stopped hulling activities. As the paddy was stored in godowns, the officials of Food Corporation of India too did not take any action to solve the problem. Now, as it is harvesting period, there is no place to store fresh paddy that has started arriving. The mill owners are demanding Rs 75 per quintal for hulling and had also staged protests and submitted a memorandum. However, the government had not responded to their demands, and that is also one of the reasons for the paddy lying in godowns. Speaking to Deccan Herald, Food and Civil Supplies Corporation's Managing Director Panchegowda said except a few, majority of the mill owners have opposed the price saying it as unscientific. Rice Mill Owners Association President Ramakrishna demanded the government at least pay Rs 50 per quintal."

While one cannot hold a brief for the Millers who refused to hull the paddy unless their charges are increased from Rs 10 to Rs 50 quintal, government is also not above blame. In these days of inflation the Millers may have a genuine case in requesting the government to increase the hulling charges which could have been negotiated over the table to arrive at an agreeable rate. In stead it waited for almost an year allowing the paddy to rot in ill designed private godowns. Look at what happened because of this fiasco. Government was forced to pay Rs 23 per quintal for storage alone which works out to some thing like Rs 33 per quintal for recovering rice fit for distribution! Added to this the government found that almost 50% of the paddy at its custody worth about Rs 45 crore might not be fit for human consumption and is readying to auction this which may fetch very low prices. Such enormous wastage of public money cannot be justified and government must take action against those responsible for this bungling, be it politicians or bureaucrats.


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