Country's leading food grain producers Punjab and Haryana are short of 122-lakh-metric-tonne storage capacity together, going by what they have submitted in the Punjab and Haryana high court.
Punjab has accepted that it is short of 100 lakh MT storage capacity for this season, while Haryana said that its figure is 22 lakh MT. The states made the submissions during the resumed hearing of a public-interest petition for directions to them among other states for devising scientific methods of food storage.
The statements suggest that the total storage capacity required for this season in Punjab is about 245 lakh MT against the current capacity of 135 lakh MT. Haryana's capacity is 32.5 lakh MT.
Punjab for gradual change
Appearing on behalf of Punjab, Punjab Grains Procurement Corporation (Pungrain) managing director DS Grewal stated that as directed by the high court, the Punjab government had formed a committee led by food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department commissioner SS Johal.
He submitted that in October 2013, the committee had recommended using cover and plinth (CAP) only as emergency system for those three to six months when no covered warehouse was available; and called for replacing it with a bulk system gradually.
The Punjab government argued that it was trying to increase the covered-storage capacity and had taken up the matter with the Centre. A letter shot in 2008 to the Union government was appended to the reply, and in it, the state had asked for arrangements for exporting 40 lakh tonnes of food grain to save it from rotting in warehouses. The plan did not materialise.
Haryana govt blames FCI
Appearing on behalf of Haryana, food and supplies department director general CR Rana had stated that instructions from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and the central government had forced the state to store extra wheat stock in the open. This stock can't be disposed of fast, since there is not much demand from non-wheat-producing states, the state has submitted.
Haryana appears to have blamed the FCI is arguing that disposing of wheat within 60 days of categorising it as damaged was not possible, and the period stipulated by the FCI required to be increased to six months, with a further grace period of two months, at the discretion of the state agency.
The FCI has filed its reply, in which its AGM (quality control) in Chandigarh, Hans Harish Harni, has submitted that all agencies, including his concern, store food grains in the open because there isn't enough covered space.
Besides, Barnala, Chheharta, Patiala, Jalalabad, Kila Raipur, Dhuri, Sangrur and Batala have been selected as centres for building silos of 20,000-MT capacity at each.
The corporation also submitted that the FCI had not much rotting grain, as its stock was put on wooden crates. The counsel for the petitioner, HC Arora, quoted recent newspaper reports about the FCI's rejecting nearly 4-lakh bags of wheat stored by an agency in Punjab for the reason that it was damaged.
The loss occurred apparently because some officers did not exercise their powers to spend a few lakh rupees on transporting wheat across an under-construction flyover, the corporation has submitted.
The high court expressed its serious concern and observed that it would issue strict guidelines for storage of wheat and action against the employees who had allowed the stock to rot. It told both states to store the current year's wheat crop properly. The Government of India and some other respondents are yet to file replies. The next hearing is on May 26.