5 Sep 2010

No food waste by rotting: Supreme Court

Don't waste food by making it rot in the godown; better give it to the poor who don't get a daily meal. This advice, even though quiet logical and sensible, has to come from no one less than the Supreme Court of the country in order for the Government to shake the slumber and think over it. Justive Dalveer Bhandari and Justive Deepak Verma last week had to put the order in specific terms to ensure that the Government takes the directions seriously and not sit over it as a mere suggestion to the executive. The Bench specifically noted that "about 50,000 M.T. of wheat have already been deteriorated and is not fit for human consumption" and not just that but also that "several lakhs of Metric Tonnes of wheat which has been procured has not been properly preserved". 

In this backdrop, the Supreme Court passed inter-alia the following order;
We would like the Central Government to inform us what steps they have taken to preserve the remaining food-grains procured by them. The Food Corporation of India must properly evaluate capacities of their godowns and procure only that much food-grains which can be properly preserved.
Justice Wadhwa, in the report of State of Orissa has mentioned that the system of storage agency is one of the main thrust of diversion of PDS food-grains. This system should end forth-with. The State Corporation has adequate storage facilities and sufficient reserves. Some of the godowns which are owned by the Corporation have let out to storage agents. The Panchayat Raj Department has six godowns of 15 M.T. Capacity and 300 godowns of 1000 M.T. Capacity. The Panchayat Raj Department and also the Urban Development Department may have more godowns if required. This suggestion may also be considered by Union of India and they must respond to it on the next date of hearing. According to the report of the Food Commissioner, lakhs of bogus cards are in circulation. According to a recent report of Times of India, more than 2,50,000 bogus cards are in circulation in the State of Orissa alone. By a newspaper advertisement, a warning be issued asking all the bogus card holders to surrender the bogus cards forthwith, in any event, within two weeks of the date of advertisement, otherwise criminal prosecution may be initiated against the bogus card holders. We have to develop a culture of zero tolerance corruption. Unless immediate and urgent steps are taken, the ultimate effect will be on the poorest citizen who is deprived of legitimate entitlement for food-grains. We must ensure that every poor person is ensured of two square meals per day. It is desirable to abolish the category of the Above Poverty Line altogether. In case it is not possible, then the Government should atleast consider limiting households whose annual income is less than Rs.2 lacs per year. We see no rationale or justification in providing subsidized food-grains to card holders whose annual income is more than Rupees two lakhs. We also call upon the Union of India to carry out fresh survey to get the correct and comprehensive picture of citizens who are in the categories of APL, BPL and AAY. Let the survey be conducted as early as possible.
A survey is required to get a clearer picture of the targeted population in the categories of APL, BPL and AAY. Some of the States are distributing fortified wheat flour (atta) which would also provide nutritional security. The Government may consider providing wheat flour. According to Justice Wadhwa's report, there will be less pilferage if wheat flour is provided instead of wheat. It would be desirable to make allocation according to 2010 population estimates.
One can only hope that the Government will take note of the stern order and do the needful to ensure that food is, atleast, not wasted in this country.

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