Amid widespread cases of foodgrains rotting, the government has finally cracked the whip, holding at least nine officials of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to account in Uttar Pradesh. FCI is the largest grain-holding agency.
The government also plans to pare down bulging wheat stocks, amid shrinking storage space, by offloading more in the open market, an official said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak.
The food ministry will move a proposal before an empowered group of ministers soon to make another 2 million tonne of grains available for sale to states. In June, the Centre had decided to offload 5 million tonne.
The official said three of the FCI’s regional managers, three quality managers and as many depot managers manning silos in Hapur, Orai and Harduaganj had been suspended. A government statement, however, said an area manager, a depot manager and a manager were suspended for negligence.
Food minister Sharad Pawar had asked his ministry to ascertain reports of rotting grains in Uttar Pradesh. The team found 345 tonne of spoilt grains in Hapur, Orai and Harduaganj depots. Managers overseeing these depots also face charges of a cover-up.
Spurred by reports of grains wasting, the Centre has decided to free enough stocked grains under the Open Market Sales Scheme.
However, states have responded poorly to the scheme’s pricing of wheat, which they feel is high. India, the second-biggest producer of wheat, doesn’t have enough space to store all of it. Record output of 80.71 million tonne this year, a tad higher than the previous best of 80.68 million tonne in 2008-09, will put strain on the government to consider lifting the ban on exports.
“However, the government is nervous about allowing export amid high food inflation,” the official said. Moreover, global wheat prices are lower than India’s, making exports non-viable.