The revelation by the Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in the Lok Sabha on 26 July 2010 that over 11,700 tonnes of foodgrains worth Rs 6.86 crore were found "damaged" in government godowns is astonishing in a country where many people go without food. According to data submitted by the Minister, of the foodgrains damaged, 9,141 tonnes was rice while 2,486 tonnes was wheat, while the rest of the 81 tonnes was paddy. The maximum damage of 7,066 tonnes of foodgrains was reported from Punjab, followed by 1,846 tonnes from West Bengal and 1,457 tonnes from Gujarat.
Antiquated food storage methods and technologies have been costing India dearly. The chairman of the Food Corporation of India (FCI), Siraj Hussain, admits that food worth Rs 50,000 crore is wasted every year. This comes roughly to 20 per cent of the total food produced by the country.
Though this figure includes food that is lost in processing, packaging, transportation and even marketing, yet a substantial portion of it is lost as rotten because of antiquated storage techniques.
Expressing serious concern over reports that a huge stock of foodgrains is being wasted in the absence of adequate storage, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma has asked the Centre to consider releasing the grain to the deserving people rather than allowing it to rot.
According to the Bench: “If food is rotting, don't waste it. In a country where admittedly people are starving, it is a crime to waste even a single grain. The official statement made by the government indicates that there is wastage of foodgrains at many places. The government may consider constructing adequate warehouses or food storage facilities on a long-term basis. On a short-term basis, they can also consider hiring warehouses or putting up water-proof tents to save the grain. But all-out efforts must be made to ensure that not a single grain is wasted.”
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