Grain rots in India as millions starve
New Delhi (UPI) Sep 14, 2010
In India, thousands of tons of excess grain have been rotting away, officials said, as millions of people are starving.
Following news reports of the rotting grain, the government admitted that more than 67,000 tons -- enough to feed 190,000 people for a month -- had rotted outside overflowing granaries. Officials were ordered by the Supreme Court to distribute to the poor 17.8 million tons of grain that was in imminent danger of rotting.
The government, however, has yet to work out how it will distribute the grain, The Hindustan newspaper reports.
With one-fifth of the country's population of more than 1 billion going hungry and nearly half of its children malnourished, the rotting grain issue calls attention to unresolved problems in India's grain storage and distribution infrastructure.
The Indian government has enough storage for 15 million tons of grain and rented space to hold an additional 10 million tons. But in 2008-09, 55 million tons were procured and ended up being stored in the open, with no protection from the weather and vermin, Inter Press Service reports.
Devinder Sharma, a New Delhi food and trade policy analyst said free distribution of rotting grain to the poor should only serve as a one-time solution for the current surplus and should be limited to the 150 districts considered desperately poor.
Instead, to guarantee food security and fair prices for farmers, he said the solution lies in a system of local production and storage starting at the village level and moving up to the state level.
"Free distribution will lead to political problems with every politician trying to corner stocks for distribution in his state, if not constituency," Sharma told IPS.
Kaushik Basu, chief economic adviser to India's finance ministry, in a paper posted on the ministry's Web site, called for a revamping of the country's grain distribution system, suggesting it engage in swap deals on the global commodity exchanges. That would give India access to the grain when it is needed, he said.
In a publication of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Kavitha Kuruganti, trustee at Kheti Virasat Mission, an organization that helps farmers in India's Punjab state cope with the effects of "intensive agricultural models" or excessive cultivation, asks why such massive amounts of grain have accumulated in the first place.
Her answer, "It's got something to do with the impoverishment we are subjecting most people in this country to."
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