After insisting in Parliament and elsewhere that the amount of rotting food grain revealed by the Hindustan Times was “exaggerated”, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Sharad Pawar’s own ministry has proven him wrong.
Nearly 40 days ago, this paper first reported how 50,000 tonnes of grain had decayed in Punjab alone and 17.8 million tonnes, or as much as France consumes in a month, was at risk from rotting.
Pawar and his ministry said no more than 11,700 tonnes had rotted.
On Monday, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, the food ministry admitted the figure for decayed grain was more than 67,000 tonnes, or nearly six times higher than it had admitted.
"Food Corporation of India (FCI) have reported that 55,121 tonnes of wheat in Punjab and Haryana had been damaged or unfit for human consumption,” the affidavit states.
This damaged stock has been stored under the state governments’ supervision. The affidavit adds FCI has already written to the state governments on July 29. “It is further submitted that 12,418 tonnes of food grain stored in FCI godowns have been damaged as of July 1,” the affidavit informed SC. Of this, the quantity of wheat is 2,689 tonnes and rice is 9,647.
The SC commissioners, who advise on food and hunger issues – part of a nine-year-long case – had confirmed the figures quoted by HT.
“Yes, the HT figure was correct,” said a senior official in the food ministry, requesting anonymity. “But, we had calculated the figures differently.” They did, never mentioning how the numbers were juggled initially.