India is the home to the largest number of undernourished people along with many other sub-Saharan countries. The sub-Saharan countries may suffer from food shortage due to poor generation of food crops but India is the victim of the governmental machinery’s disinterest and indifference to the plight of starving people in spite of an abundance of food crops. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has proved itself to be incompetent time and again to perform its four major responsibilities namely –
- Effective price support operations for safeguarding the interest of the farmers.
- Distribution of food grains throughout the country for Public Distribution System
- Maintaining satisfactory level of operational and buffer stocks of food grains to ensure National Food Security.
- To keep a tab on food inflation.
According to the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) report, FCI incurred an expenditure of Rs.375.52 crores during the period of 2006 -2007 to 2011- 2012 due to its failure to utilize vacant storage spaces in Punjab and Haryana to store wheat which could easily be avoided. The report further observed that 1.06 lakh tonnes of wheat worth Rs.121.93 crores custody of the state government agencies of Punjab and Haryana were damaged due to “non adherence to first-in-first-out (FIFO) policy. Another 42 crore worth of wheat was damaged due to poor storage conditions. According to the final CAG report tabled in the Parliament – “Failure to utilize the vacant storage space due to short planning of direct delivery of wheat resulted in avoidable expenditure of carryover charges of Rs. 375.52 crores during the period 2006-2007 to 2011-2012”.
For the year ending July 2012, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO) estimates that the wheat price rise in India was the second highest after Sudan and the rice price rise was the third largest globally in spite of an abundance of grains.
It is a criminal offence that food grains lie wasted and rotten outside FCI’s warehouses in a country where 29.8% of the population lives below the poverty line. The Government is blind to the plight of the starving people who are unable to feed themselves two square meals a day while 16386 tonnes of food grains (worth Rs.9.67 crores) are wasted in three years (2009-2012).
Abroad, on World Food Day, the picture of India continues to be undernourished children and mothers while with the election issues involved next year, the government of India plans to issue an ordinance on the Food Security Bill. The Food Security Bill 2013 states that “to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” The government is procrastinating on holding a special session of the Parliament so that the Food Bill could be passed by political consensus. Such procrastination is evident on the part of the government. With the election issues at hand, the abject stoicism of the government towards the plight of the starving people and the negligence on the part of FCI will play a pivotal role. It is clear that both the FCI and the government will be between a rock and a hard place.