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Is the Punjab grain problem man made?


Jyoti Kamal,CNN-IBN
May 09, 2012 at 10:47pm IST

Chandigarh: It is not just a shortage of storage space that is the problem. In Punjab, investigations by CNN-IBN reveal that space to store seven lakh tonnes of wheat grain has already been created by private godown owners and another five lakh tonnes space would be created in the next three months.

However, the Punjab government is not using the new godowns and has left its grain out in the open to rot. CNN-IBN has also found that rotten grain is in fact being sold at half the procurement price to liquor distilleries.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal's wife Harsimrat Kaur had told Parliament that Punjab had no grain storage space whereas new godowns are going unused in Punjab.

One Rajinder Singh built a storage facility at a cost of Rs 3 crore after getting a tender from the Punjab government in 2011. He informed them in March that the facility was ready, but the government is still procuring grain and allowing it to rot in the open. An inspection team citing "technical" issues is yet to give clearance to Rajinder's godowns.

To stop the great grain rot in Punjab, the Food Corporation and the Punjab government launched a scheme in 2008, inviting private parties to build 47 lakh tonnes of storage, of which the rent would be paid by the FCI while the inspection and take-over of godowns would be done by Punjab government agency PUNGRAIN.

By March 2012, seven lakh tonnes of storage space had been built by private players. But PUNGRAIN is yet to take over these godowns, even as grain in Punjab rots in the open.

The local food inspector merely cites technical reasons.

"Till such time that we don't get clearance, how can we keep the grain in the new godowns?" said Gopal Bansal, food inspector.

PUNGRAIN officials refused to comment, even as unhappy godown owners allege favoritism in the godown approval process.

Kulwant Rai Singla, a godown owner, said, "It is a big scam and should be investigated."

And there is another shocker – rotting paddy at the Khamano grain market. Workers tell CNN-IBN that the rotting rice is now being siphoned off to the liquor industry.

"Not even cattle feed can be made from this paddy, it's so bad. I t can be used for making liquor," said Malkit Singh, worker, Khamano Grain Market.

Guidelines say that grain unfit for humans can only be sold as cattle feed or as fuel. But the Punjab government says no rotting rice has gone to the liquor industry.

The opposition alleges vested interests allow the grain to rot for the liquor lobby to buy at throwaway prices.

Grain paid for by the common man's money is rotting away in Punjab government facilities even as warehouses lie empty. And the rotten grain is now making its way to the liquor industry flourishing in Punjab. This raises questions over Punjab government's intentions to really save the grain from rotting.

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