New Delhi: According to data released by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, over 1,550 tonnes of food grains had been damaged in Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns during the COVID-19-induced lockdown period in April and May.
According to a report in the New Indian Express, around the time when unemployed migrant workers had died while undertaking lengthy journeys to reach their native villages to avoid starvation, nearly 26 tonnes of food grains were damaged in May and over 1,453 tonnes were damaged in June.
The months of July and August recorded wastage of 41 and 51 tonnes respectively. Zero damage of foodgrains was recorded during the months of March and April, according to the data.
As per the consumer affairs ministry, foodgrains stored with FCI are kept in covered godowns, with various preservation measures like fumigation and treatment with pesticides. Despite the precautions, small quantity of foodgrains may become unfit for use due to various reasons like natural calamities or damages in transit.
According to the report, officials also claimed that in the event of any damage to foodgrains, the issue is immediately investigated on a case-by-case basis and action by the concerned authority is taken against officials found responsible. Close 125 officers have had action initiated against them between the years 2014-2018 for damage to foodgrains.
In April this year, food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan had said that the government has reduced wastage of food grains to negligible by adopting scientific methods of storage and distribution.
“Unlike public perception that there is a huge wastage of food grains in Food Corporation of India’s godowns, we have been able to control it to negligible quantity,” Paswan had said.
“In 2015-16, government bought 62.3 million tonne of rice and wheat. Out of which only 3116 tonnes of grains were wasted, which is just 0.005% of the total purchase,” he said. In 2016-17, the wastage was just 0.014% of the total purchase of 61 million tonnes, Paswan said.
“Similarly, the wastage for 2017-18 and 2018-19 was 0.003% and 0.006% respectively. In 2019-20, government purchased 75.17 million tonnes of foodgrains, out of which only 1930 tonnes were wasted, which is 0.002% of the total procurement,” he said.