Punjab blames Centre for letting wheat rot in open

Written by fe Bureau | Chandigarh | Updated: Jul 29 2010, 15:10pm hrs
While people in some food grain deficit states were starving, thousands of tonne of wheat stocks were rotting in the open in the rains in Punjab.

Punjab Mandi Board chairman Ajmer Singh Lakhowal making this startling finding told FE here on Tuesday that jointly Punjab and Haryana this year had procured over 180 lakh tonne of wheat last season. He said Punjab and Haryana created two records with Punjab procuring 110 lakh tonne and Haryana 70 lakh tonne of wheat and also a record in about 48,000 tonne wheat rotting in the open.

He lamented while wheat stocks were rotting, the Centre was not lifting the same. No one is bothered that people in some states were starving, thousands of tonne of wheat was rotting in Punjab.

Punjab government admits that over 48,000 tonnne of wheat that it procured in 2008-09 and 2009-10 had gone waste as it has been declared unfit for human consumption. The stock is enough to feed around five lakh people for a year.

The apathy of the Punjab government has come to light after Food Corporation of India declared the grains unfit after an inquiry in March. A three member enquiry panel headed by FCIs chief general manager had conducted the inquiry. The enquiry report blames Punjab govenrment for the mess and alleges that Punjabs procurement agencies had not only failed to move the wheat in time for distribution but also failed to use scientific methods to preserve the wheat stocks.

The FCI enquiry report says that these wheat stocks were good only to be used as cattle feed. The report goes on to add that This is a grave negligence of the state government. The FCI pays huge amount to the state for the procurement and preservation of the stocks.

Of the wheat stocks that have rotted as of 1 July, 34,396 tonne were in the yards of Punjab Agro Food Grains, 7,768 tonne with Punjab State Grains Procurement; 6,032 tonne with Punjab State Civil Supplies and 119 tonne with Punjab Marketing Federation.

SP Singh, principal secretary in Punjabs food and civil supplies department disclosed that state government has already floated tenders for auctioning the rotted wheat stocks for cattle feed.

The Mandi Board chairman concludes that worst was yet to come as more stocks would rot in the open in Punjab with the iintroduction of the National Food Security Act as it would only mean more procurement for deficit states and consequential need for more storage space which Punjab lacks.