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May 09, 2012 at 10:41pm IST

Haryana: Grain rots while poor starve

Palwal: CNN-IBN had in June 2011 brought you the shocking story of grain rot, decay and decomposition in the Deoli village of Palwal district in Haryana. Shot during monsoons, the grain procured by HAFED and CONFED was infested with worms and exposed to rain.

In May 2012, CNN-IBN revisited the same storage yard only to discover that the condition has worsened. Grain procured to be the country's buffer and feed its 1.2 billion people is now feeding worms.

Some of the grain has rotted beyond recognition. There is a powerful stink in the air. Worms are turning the grain into hollow shells. Shift the layer of what remains of the wheat and you see the grain dust beneath it.

The sacks that hold the grain are rotting too, the polythene sheets lie in disarray on the ground, the wooden plinths on which the country's food reserves rest are giving way. At last count, 3500 metric tonnes of food grain had been damaged.

Since we visited last, an enquiry had been ordered and four officers were also suspended in March this year. But even this has not been able to stem the rot. What is even more distressing is that some of this grain could have been passed on to the poor through the public distribution system. Baldev, the chowkidar, who watches over the grain does not mince words, "this grain goes to the depot, it goes into the quota, it is distributed to the poor... the bad and the good grain are all mixed"

Diwan Chand Sharma, the district civil supplies controller, who has taken over recently does not deny the rot in Deoli. In fact, he says he has also visited the storage yard. He also does not deny that grain from this location could have been distributed to the poor, "earlier the PDS permit was with us but now it is with the FCI... the new release order for May if for the fresh stock".

Sharma says there has been a serious shortage of manpower too. And for now, he has focussed his energies on managing the massive procurement of wheat.

The rot is just not in Deoli. In Baghola, a few kilometers away from Deoli, there are at least six lakh sacks of wheat. Of this 600000, 8000 sacks are already rotting. The ones that have been covered in black are being treated for wom infestation. Locals say if you remove the black cover, the stink will make it impossible for anyone to stand there. Raghuvir, a chowkidar, cannot conceal his anger, "we have kattcha plinths. When rains come, there is hardly any protection. The state government has not given us any facilities. Many officers have come and we have also written to many officers".

As much as 95,000 metric tonnes of grain in Haryana is up to three years old. There is no space to stock the fresh grain. So you can see the fresh grain being stored across fields in the Mathura Agra highway.

We had reported from this very location during last monsoons. Almost 10 months have passed but things have only become worse. While we were here, one stack of foodgrain just crumbled. At any given minute, a sack of grain is likely to burst and grain starts leaking. Every grain has a story of rot but who is responsible for this and what will the condition be when the monsoons come?

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