Supreme Court calls foodgrain wastage a 'crime'

Supreme Court judges tell India’s Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran, who was representing the Centre, to distribute stored foodgrain among poor families instead of allowing it to rot because of lack of space

While India’s Opposition parties rocked Parliament over the price rise issue, the Supreme Court, on July 27, 2010, emphasised that wastage of even a single foodgrain in a poor country like India was a “crime”. 

“In a country where people are starving, wastage of a single grain is a crime. It has come out in the official records that food stocks are lying waste,” a Bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma observed. They were referring to piles of foodgrain rotting in government godowns because of inadequate storage facilities. 

A Supreme Court-appointed committee, set up to check the Public Distribution System (PDS) mechanism, described it as “inefficient and corrupt,” plagued by black marketing and unofficially run by a “vicious cartel of bureaucrats, fair price shop-owners and middlemen”. 

The committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice D P Wadhwa, in its report to the apex court, said the Rs 28,000 crore subsidy annually spent by the government was being pocketed by vested interests and suggested drastic action to stem the rot. 

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), in a 2001 PIL on hiccups in the PDS, submitted that government records show that 62 million tonnes of foodgrain were at present stored at government depots in “the open, with every risk of it being destroyed”. 

“Wheat is rotting. Why not come out with a proposal to immediately distribute food commodities lying in godowns to BPL (below the poverty line) families,” the court asked. 

The court wanted the food secretary, who has to file an affidavit in six weeks, to consider distributing rations through cooperative societies instead of “private licensees”. 

Source: The Indian Express, July 28, 2010
            The Hindustan Times, July 28, 2010