The Centre, it seems, might again be required to go in a damage control mode and account for the loss of Rs. 45 crore worth of foodgrain in the past five years.
The data was accessed by Hindustan Times through Right to Information. And as per our calculation, the grains, damaged mostly during handling and storage, could have fed at least 250,000 people per year.
The government had earlier admitted to a loss of wheat worth Rs. 5 crore and rice worth Rs. 40 crore in the last five years.
The revelation comes at a time when the UPA-led government is trying its best to push the food security bill through an ordinance on the grounds that it will give two-third Indians a legal right to affordable food.
At least 12.5 lakh people could have been fed if we had better food storage facilities.
The RTI reply shows that although the government has been able to bring down losses over the years, a creaking food storage infrastructure continues to result in high wastage of food grains in a country which, by one count, has 200 million food-insecure people.
The government procures food grain from farmers at a minimum support price, which has been continuously hiked over the years, so that it could be distributed to the poor at subsidised rates.
The financial losses could be even higher if costs of transportation, handling and storage are accounted for.
Yet, despite government estimates putting the death of children due to malnutrition at a minimum of 3,000 every day, heaps of food grains lie rotting in the fields.
In 2011, the Supreme Court had rapped the Centre on its knuckles and ordered it to release 5 million tonnes of foodgrain for distribution in the poorest districts of the country. Sadly, the wastage of food grains continues unabated.