A government contemplating launch of an ambitious scheme akin to the multi-crore Food Security programme, must have its finger firmly on the pulse of its administrative apparatus.
That, however, hardly appears to be the case, with a whopping 775 metric tonnes (MT) of toor lemon daal of Myanmar origin gathering mould inside a Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) godown in Navi Mumbai. That a large portion of the consignment has decayed was revealed during an inspection last week by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The reason behind such an enormous quantity of unprocessed foodgrain not having reached the market yet is another proverbial curse of modern India -- a long-standing litigation between two parties.
According to documents available with MiD DAY, a dispute between Muscovite Agro Trading Company and Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation (MMTC) of India Limited -- a government of India enterprise -- has resulted in the yield rotting in the godown. FDA’s Thane joint commissioner SK Shere said that his agency had received a complaint and hence his men had been to the CWC facility to inspect the goods, which were stored in 13,237 sacks. They found that certain portions of the pulses had decayed. So, instructions have been issued that the merchandise not be moved till reports are submitted on the matter.
When contacted, Ganesh Paralikar, the FDA official from Thane who had visited the site, informed MiD DAY that some share of the toor lemon daal appeared to have decomposed and seemed unfit for human consumption. He added, “The crop was lying there because of a litigation and this was brought to our notice. A team of three from FDA visited the godown.”
When processed, 775 MT of toor lemon is expected to produce 735 MT of toor dal. The remaining 40 MT is used as cattle fodder, selling for Rs 3 per kg. Currently, toor daal is going at Rs. 79-80 per kg in the open market. Once the crop is processed, it is often sent to marts of Gujarat apart from several areas in Maharashtra.
Mital Harish Madiyar, proprietor of Muscovite Agro Trading Co, which is one of the parties in the litigation, said that the firm has been dealing with MMTC in Mumbai over the last 4-5 years in purchase of pulses.
“In October 2010, MMTC had floated a tender for sale of toor in Vashi, stored inside a CWC godown. As per the conditions, a bidder had to submit 15 per cent earnest money deposit (EMD), but we unknowingly gave only 5 per cent. Despite this, we got confirmation for lifting the consignment because we were, ostensibly, the highest bidder. We even asked MMTC to reject our bid, but this was not entertained.” In fact, the trading company also accused certain officials from the government undertaking of having demanded money over and above the actual amount, which the bidder was expected to pay.
When we tried to contact officials from MMTC India Ltd, Mugdha Agarwal, a manager with the corporation, said “I really do not know if we are permitted to speak to the media about this.”
We then attempted to contact DS Wasnik, deputy general manager with the organisation, but he did not respond to our calls.
Speaking to MiD DAY, Dr Himanshu, an economist from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said that this is the situation across the country, as the government has often been importing more than required. “There is no proper coordination between those who are procuring the grains and the ones distributing them, and that is why the common people suffer,” he explained
Dr KD Yadav, President Elect, Association of Food Scientists and Technologists, said that the government should first focus on putting systems in place. “The farmers are not growing much of pulses because they are not getting the right price. As a result, the government is required to import the crop from other countries. It’s important that whatever comes into the country should be maintained and stored in proper conditions, with periodic fumigation,” he opined.