New Delhi: Admitting that rotting of
foodgrains was "shameful", government on Tuesday said aggressive
measures will be taken to increase storage capacity in the
next 2-3 years.
"We will invest from the government side and encourage
private sector and the state governments to invest in
warehousing because rotting of foodgrains is shameful,"
Agriculture Minister Shard Pawar said replying to a Calling
Attention Motion on the subject in the Rajya Sabha.
He said government will have an aggressive programme on
warehousing in the next 2-3 years.
Pawar said while the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has
increased its storage capacity from 227 lakh tonnes to 274
lakh tonnes in the last two years, the government agencies
had to take the responsibility of procuring between 97 to 99
per cent of the foodgrains arrivals.
This was because private parties were not interested in
procurement in the wake of high taxation on it, he said.
Pawar has written letters to several states to consider
the issue of high taxes on food procurement by private
agencies in mandis.
Contending that given the large stocks to be maintained by
the FCI, some damage to stocks is inevitable, Pawar said
responsibilities have to be fixed for the damage. The FCI has
suspended eight officials. It has also initiated disciplinary
action against a number of officials in Uttar Pradesh, he
Senior officials have been instructed to monitor movement
and handling of foodgrain stocks.
The issue of rotting of foodgrains has angered several
political parties. Lashing out at the government for the
"glaring lapse", senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu (BJP)
said, "Government has miserably failed in its duty to
supplement storage capacity."
An anguished Supreme Court had also recently observed that
excess foodgrains could well be used to feed the hungry rather
than allowing it to rot.
Referring to the Apex Court`s observation that families
above poverty lines should be kept out of PDS, Pawar said he
did not agree with it. On the contrary, there was a demand for
universalisation of the PDS, he said.
Agreeing with Pawar, BJP also toed the government line of
not taking away the PDS facilities from APL.
He said the government will reply to the court in a day or
two and put forward the government policy.
Pawar said that with a proposal like Food Security Bill,
the government needs to have at least two years` stocks for
which storage capacity is required.