A section of the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) permanent loading workers gets monthly wages of R1 lakh-2.2 lakh, higher than the government’s highest grade pay, by virtue of it being on the rolls of the public-sector entity but often outsourcing work.
Some 350 FCI depots, most of which are located in the north-east, cannot employ contract labour thanks to the enforcement of a law that sought its abolition. This leaves the loading job at these depots with about 3,000 permanent workers. These workers don’t do the entire work themselves and employ others, who are neither on FCI roll nor contract workers. These casual workers are not paid commensurately by the ‘master labourers’ on the roll, whose peak monthly wages often exceed even R2 lakh.
FCI has 18,000 labourers on its roll and the average per capita wage bill is R35,000 a month. “A section of FCI workers pockets sums much higher than their due even as the corporation suffers from dis-economics of scale, that is, a situation where per unit real costs increase with an increase in the scale of operation. The corporation is also burdened with high procurement incidentals and increasing carrying costs of the buffer stock,” says a CACP report.
The CACP, in its report ‘Price policy for rabi crops 2013-14’, has stated that over the last five years, while wheat MSP has increased by 51%, the economic cost of procuring the same by FCI has increased by about 39%. Correspondingly, the average handling cost per tonne for 2010-11 for contractual labour was R41.4 while for departmental labour, it was R311.1 and for workers under the Direct Payment System, R136.9.
“This indicates contractual labour of FCI was the least expensive. However, the ministry of labour has prohibited employment of contract labour in the depots of FCI,” the CACP report notes.
FCI's food grain-handling expenses, which include salaries of labourers in 2011-12, have been reported at R2,750 crore, an increase of more than 14.5% from the previous year.
Food ministry officials attribute such huge salaries for grain-handling staff to the labour ministry’s norm against hiring contract labour and the rising volume of grain handling by the FCI. The railways’ norm of allowing only nine hours for unloading or loading of foodgrain — beyond which the corporation needs to pay demurrage charges to the national transporter — aids the situation. “The number of wagons per train at present is around 56 while