News / Asia

Indian Government Takes Heat for Rotting Wheat

A laborer pulls at a sack of rotting wheat grain to try to salvage any that was still edible, at an open storage area in Khamanon village, some 215 kilometers (133 miles) from Amritsar, India.
A laborer pulls at a sack of rotting wheat grain to try to salvage any that was still edible, at an open storage area in Khamanon village, some 215 kilometers (133 miles) from Amritsar, India.

India's government is coming under fire for letting tons of wheat from the country's bumper crop rot away.  There is a growing controversy in a country where nearly half of all children do not get enough to eat.

In Bhopal, India anger and frustration boil over -  protesters clashing with police, blaming government officials for letting their harvests go to waste.

On Thursday, Punjab state's deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal placed the blame at the top. "The grain is not with us, it is in the custody of the FCI [Food Corporation of India]. So it is FCI's property, if they have let it rot its FCI's problem," he said.

In New Delhi, Food Minister K.V. Thomas was quick to dismiss any concerns. "I had a discussion with the minister of agriculture of Punjab a few days back. My report is that they are managing all these things," he said.
 

But pictures from around India tell a different story - piles of wheat at this grain market in Rajasthan exposed to the elements, rotting away following a heavy rainfall.

Another pile makes a comfortable bed for a dog. Farmers are outraged.

"Even looking at all this, there is no mercy for farmers," said farmer Raghu. "There is no administration or collector to look into the matter. Anybody who comes here just gives assurance that our work will be done soon. But no one comes after that."

The vast shortage of storage facilities has sparked bitter debate in New Delhi, where officials have said there is simply no where to put an estimated 12 million tons of surplus grain this year.

So for now there is little hope for farmers, forced to watch as their good grain goes bad.
 


Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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