Every year, India’s poor are cheated out of 53.3% of wheat and 39% of rice meant for them. The biggest diversion takes place in the case of wheat — the grain that the UPA government has controversially spent thousands of crores purchasing at steep prices from the international market in a bid to maintain buffer stocks. And it disappears most from states where the staple diet is rice.
While the Food Corporation of India can be credited with at least trying to straighten its vigilance wing and punishing several officials for the loss and diversion, the same cannot be said of the states. Many states do not even have a vigilance set-up to catch the culprits.
Vigilance committees have not been constituted in Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Jharkhand, MP, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Punjab, Tripura, Uttarakhand, UP, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Daman & Diu.
New Delhi: In the last three years, Rs 31,585.98 crore worth of wheat and rice meant for the poorest of the poor was siphoned off from the public distribution system. Last year alone, Rs 11,336.98 crore worth of food grain that the government is supposed to distribute to the needy at subsidised prices found its way into the market illegally.
Every year, India’s poor are cheated out of 53.3% of wheat and 39% of rice meant for them. With the exception of 11 states and Union Territories, there is large-scale diversion of PDS grain across India. And, these 11 states and UTs seem to be faring better only because the others are so far ahead in the dirty business. In the case of wheat, except for 12 states, there’s massive pilferage of the grain all over the country. The situation is a tad better for rice, with 16 states having little or no diversion.
Exceptions apart, the poor in India simply can’t trust the government to deliver them food supplies. The malaise cuts across party lines and categories like progressive, rich states and the poor less developed ones.
The North-East is in a class of its own. Of the eight states here, not a single grain of wheat supplied to six — Sikkim, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Assam — reaches the targeted poor. Arunachal Pradesh can claim to be a little less corrupt as 96.2% of its PDS wheat gets diverted. Manipur takes the cake as 97.7% of its rice allocation is also siphoned off with Nagaland following close behind at 88.6% of rice being diverted. If political and policing troubles in the North-East can be blamed for such daylight robbery, other states have no alibi.
In terms of loss to the exchequer, Uttar Pradesh fares the worst, followed by Left-ruled West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
In 2006-07, Rs 3,289.71 crore worth of rice and wheat was stolen in UP. The corresponding figure in West Bengal was Rs 1,913.76 crore and in MP, Rs 1,038.69 crore. While the percentage of diversion may be lower than the North-East, the sheer volume of rice and wheat distributed in these states helps black-marketeers make a killing.
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