India's Supreme Court Lashes Out at Government Wastage of Grain
India's Supreme Court once again came down heavily upon the attitude of the government towards wastage of grains outside the government warehouses, even as millions of people are reeling under hunger and poverty. The court asked the central government to ensure no more waste of food grains and that all the targeted beneficiaries are adequately supplied.
Court vs. Government
Justice Dalveer Bhandari, hearing the Public Interest Litigation filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), asked the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Prasaran, attending for the government, not to go by percentage regarding wastage of grain when Parasaran said the wastage was only 0.07 lakhs but not 0.7 lakhs. He also said he had figures for two states, Punjab & Haryana, viz. 67,539 tonnes, almost ten times that of the national figure projected by the government. Even 7,000 tonnes wastage was huge; that cannot be allowed, the other judge in the bench Justice Depak Verma added.
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had asked the government for distribution of the grain kept outside the warehouses, due to lack of space, to the poor, as it was getting decayed. Agricultural minister Sharad Powar responded it was not possible, but agreed to look into the matter. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went further, saying the courts couldn’t interfere in the policy decisions of the government, a comment refused by the apex court, saying it did not ask their opinion and it only asked them to deal properly with the question of hungry poor and wastage of grain.
The PUCL filed a petition stating that huge corruption was taking place in the Public Distribution System (PDS). It pointed out although the grain stock is available in huge quantities, proper allocation to the state governments is not being done. It added that at present the government has 22 million tonnes of buffer stock along with 33 million tonnes of stocks in godowns. Even then, only 2.5 million tonnes had been allocated for the PDS, PUCL informed the court of justice.Continued on the next page