Food grains rotting in godowns, Millions of Indians starving, government splurging on extravaganza
“NOT a single grain of food should be wasted. In a country where the people are starving and the official statement of the government indicates that there is shortage of food at many places how can grain be allowed to rot in FCI godowns?”. This is how a division bench of the Supreme Court rapped the central government on the reports that 62 million tonnes of food grain was rotting in various states in the Food Corporation of India godowns. In fact the apex court has only spoken the thought upper most in the minds of most Indians at a time when the food prices are galloping at an alarming rate and the government looks helpless, rather indifferent to the plight of ordinary Indians.
The Manmohan Singh government in its present form has become the best example of reigning crony capitalism at its worst-ever manifestation. Government indifference to public good is brazenly demonstrated in its every action. Equally loud is its obstinate commitment to bring happiness and profit to a select club of Indian and foreign corporate entities and private individuals at the risk of national calamity. When it announced the decontrol of petroleum pricing, for instance, it was clear that the announcement will bring millions of rupees in profit to select private companies. Its food import-export policy, allowing future trading in food grains, involving the middleman in the distribution of grains to the PDS instead of sending them directly to the PDS or states, spawning massive corruption in the selection of FCI godowns and storage all point to cronyism and mismanagement. The Manmohan government gives the impression that there is no governance per se and it acts only when it has to favour one section by depriving and harassing the larger majority.
The Supreme Court’s anguished reaction came in the wake of the hearing of the report of the Justice D P Wadhwa committee that unearthed corruption in the working of the PDS and large scale pilferage of grain in states. The report had also found that 90 per cent of kerosene was not reaching the intended beneficiaries. “The general complaint is that the people in the BPL category do not get the intended benefit under the PDS,” the bench said. The bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Deepak Verma further asked the centre why it was not transporting grain directly from FCI godowns to ration shops instead of routing them through intermediaries. It also suggested that grain should be stored in government godowns instead of private warehouses. Reports of pilferage and corruption in the storage including the startling revelations of bags filled with mud in place of grain in a warehouse in Punjab have hit headlines amidst disturbing incidents of starvation deaths from different parts of the country. The apex court observed that the government has set the limit of 35 kg to each BPL family without taking into consideration the size of the families.
The government’s growing display of ineptitude and helplessness in the face of spiralling food inflation is directly linked to the mess in the public distribution system. The government’s pronouncement on controlling price rise has now become a matter of public ridicule. The Times of India (July 30) carried a lead story highlighting how the UPA’s tall talk on prices since November 2009 exposes its insincerity. On February 6, 2010, Manmohan Singh had said that the worst was over as far as food inflation was concerned. On May 24, 2010 he said “we will slow inflation to 5-6 per cent by December”. On July 24, 2010 he said inflation would ease to six per cent by December. His Food Minister Sharad Pawar on February 18, 2010 had claimed that food prices have started falling and will dip further next month. But after expressing his inability to carry on with so much burden, on July 9, he averred, food inflation is coming down day by day.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on his part, on February 18, 2010 claimed that the country would see a moderate rate of inflation in the next two months. His take on July 24 was, after crop season is over moderating inflation on price front will be felt. The UPA’s Planning Commission is equally off the mark. Deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia had said on November 8, 2009, that by the end of this financial year food inflation will come down. Does the government have any clue? Repeated false statements on food inflation have deprived the UPA of all credibility, and now it sounds like a crude joke when it talks of controlling food price. Under the UPA in the last six years food prices have gone up by three to four times. All through these years its leaders have been shifting the target from monsoon to spring to winter. In fact, its words sound empty, either it is groping in the dark or it is plain mischievous. It is fooling the country as its cronies and minions make money from the suffering of India’s millions. In any case, it is a cynically cruel, shameless lot ruling the country today.