Food rights activists have written to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, seeking reversal of the Government’s decision to export 2 million tonnes of wheat to ease stocks.

The letter says that the subsidised wheat exports may end up being “fed to the cattle in industrialised countries” at a time when multitudes were going hungry in the country. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2011 Global Hunger Index, India has the largest number of hungry people in the world with a rank of 67 out of 81 countries ranked.

“We are appalled that the Government of India is choosing to subsidise exports of wheat to liquidate stocks rather than distribute it to the starving multitudes in India. Subsidised exports essentially mean that the Government is taking a conscious policy decision to provide subsidy to cattle in the industrialised countries…” says the letter.

They said the solution to overflowing storages was universal public distribution of foodgrain, at least in the 200 poor districts identified by the Government, not subsidised exports.

The food activists also cautioned the Government that the wheat could actually land up in the black market.

“Past experience with such grain subsidies (especially through the private agencies) has been that exporters are likely to resort to false invoicing to create a paper trail of exports.

Referring it to as a ‘scam foretold’, the letter says “in reality all of this grain is likely not to leave Indian shores at all and get diverted instead, either in the black market domestically or sold back to the Government agencies at minimum support prices (MSP). “

The letter, signed by National Advisory Council member Ms Aruna Roy, economist Dr Jeane Dreze and activists such as Ms Annie Raja, Dr Binayak Sen, and others also flayed the Government for non-implementation of last year’s Supreme Court order on grain distribution.

Only 10 per cent (0.6 million mt) of grains have been lifted of the total from the 5 million allocated to be distributed last year as of March 31, 2012. Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh have lifted less than 5 per cent of the total allocation of additional foodgrains. Bihar, Haryana, Manipur, Tripura and West Bengal have lifted less than 25 per cent, the activists said.

aditi.n@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 5, 2012)
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