Thousands of wheat bags were seen lying in the open in the grain market of Sirhind. The authorities had not covered the bags with any plastic sheets to avoid damage to the wheat because of rain. A Hindustan Times team on Monday visited the Sirhind grain market where it spotted more than 80,000 bags lying open in the rain.
The guard who was deployed there said that he called persons concerned to cover bags but they could not reach on time.
A reliable source told the team that a few km away from the Sirhind grain market, thousands of bags of rotting wheat had been stacked in a field village Kotla Bhai ka which were purchased by the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited (PAIC) in 2008-09.
When the team visited the fields of village Kotla Bhai ka, foul smell was emanating from the wheat. Rats and termites had already infested the rotten wheat.
The guard, who was deployed at the temporary-made godowns, avoided questions by saying that he had just joined here as security guard 20 days ago.
But while having a conversation, he said that it was difficult to stay here on duty because of foul smell emanating from the rotten wheat bags.
However, officials of the Punjab agro agency were seen blaming other agencies like the Food Corporation of India by saying that they had purchased the wheat on behalf of the FCI agency and now it was the agency’s duty to lift it as early as possible to avoid further damage.
When asked about rotten wheat lying in fields, a senior officer of the Punjab Government said that the Punjab Agro agency had already requested the Punjab government to invite the tenders for damaged wheat so that through tenders, agency could recover some loss.
The officer also said that it was a direct loss to the state government. The Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer affairs Punjab is supposed to invite tenders had not done so and because of it, the rotten wheat is further decaying.
The officer further added that there was information that the government was to invite tenders in March but it was delayed because of some reason.
However, the district manager of the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited at Fatehgarh Sahib Ashok Garg said that they had allotted special plastic sheets so that bags stacked in open in the grain market could be covered.
Garg claimed that they had covered all bags stacked in the open in Sirhind mandi and he had no knowledge about the bags lying in the open.
However, confirming about the rotten wheat, Garg said that it was purchased in 2008-09 and because of moisture in wheat, the FCI did not lift the wheat and then it was dumped in fields.
Saying that it was now not fit for human consumption, Garg added that the bags would be auctioned and it would be used for animal feed.
Managing director of PAIC Kahan Singh Pannu said the Punjab government would hold an auction for rotten wheat bags.
Pannu said most of the times, the agency purchased wheat from farmers on the behalf of the FCI and if the FCI did not lift it, the agency has to bear expense.
DS Grewal, secretary of the department of food, civil supplies and consumer affairs, did not respond to the calls. Agency claimed that through tenders, it could recover its loss made while purchasing.