As lakhs of poor battle hunger, their share of food grain is rotting in the godowns. India Today TV has found tonnes of wheat damaged as it was stored in the open at a government warehouse in Nagura of Jind district of Haryana.

As lakhs of poor battle hunger, their share of food grain is rotting in the godowns. India Today TV has found tonnes of wheat damaged as it was stored in the open at a government warehouse in Nagura of Jind district of Haryana.

The investigation has also revealed that flouting storage norms, tonnes of old stock of wheat is kept in the open godowns along the highway between Rohtak and Jind. In 2019-20, only 1,930 tonnes of food grain was damaged. But food experts doubt this figure as close to 132 lakh tonnes of food grain is stored at open godowns of the Food Corporation of India.

Center has approved more godowns with a capacity of 90 lakh tonnes in major wheat-producing states including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. Technically called the Cover and Plinth (CAP) facility, tonnes of wheat from old stock has been stored at this open godown. We found plinth damaged and the cover of stacks torn and blown away that has left the wheat exposed to rainwater seepage through the stacks causing damage to it. Such is the extent of damage that wheat stored in some stacks has turned black and become unfit for human consumption. Ashok, the godown in-charge said that since the covered godowns at Nagura facility are full, so they have no option but to store wheat in the open.

He accepted that wheat kept in open is getting damaged as it has not been lifted by FCI and they cannot do much about it. “We are just keeping this stock for FCI, storm often blows away the covers and waterlogging due to rain damages the plinth,” he said. “The open godown is also exposed to monkeys and birds which damage the wheat,” he added.

FCI guidelines for storage of foodgrain at CAP facility are clear. Foodgrains in should be stored on elevated plinths and wooden crates are used as dunnage material. As per norms, stacks should be properly covered with specifically fabricated low-density black polythene waterproof covers and tied with nylon ropes/nets. We found a number of CAP godowns between Rohtak and Jind, where these norms were being openly flouted.

At most facilities, the food grain was not properly covered or blown away and the plinth was damaged or missing. There are clear guidelines that foodgrain cannot be stored in CAP godowns for more than six months. FCI has defaulted on this norm as well. India Today TV found open godowns where food grain from last season was still kept one at Nagura.

Balbir Singh, a local contractor with the Government warehouse warns that no amount of plinth and cover can keep the food grain stored in the open safe for a long period. “This is wastage of food grain produced after hard work of the farmer, the agency covers it and uses wooden plinth, but it is not sufficient as storing foodgrain like this can never be safe like this,” he said. The government claims that damage to food grain has come down drastically over the years. But farmer unions allege that this damage is intentional and blame the situation has arisen due to a nexus to sell rotten wheat for cheap.

V M Singh of the All India Kisan Coordination Committee told India Today TV, “Nexus is absolutely there between Food Corporation officials and cattle feed people, distillery owners who are buyers.’ ‘This is a big ugly game, not only the bad and rotten wheat but also the good wheat is sold at Rs 5 rupees, Rs 4 and as less as Rs 2 a kg to these people while the corrupt make money,” he alleged. The overflowing granaries have compounded the storage problem.

Food grain stock is at an all-time high. Government figures show food grain stock is three times the minimum operational strategic reserve. Modi government has announced allocation of 5 kg food grain for migrant laborers, it also increased ration quota under PM Garib Kalyan Scheme for the poor to tide over lockdown due to Coronavirus pandemic. Former Food Commissioner of SC appointed committee, Dr. N C Saxena, fears most of this allocation is on paper. He said, “The best way to save food grain from rotting in godowns in to distribute them among the needy and poor.”

Courtesy India Today