India has lost more than 10 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains stored in Food Corporation of India godowns over the last decade, enough to feed six to seven lakh people for 10 years.
Godowns in Punjab, the country’s granary, accounted for half of this loss, according to statistics handed over by the FCI to a right to information applicant on the extent of foodgrains damaged in its godowns.
Going by NSSO estimates of per capita cereal consumption — roughly 150 kg per person per year — between six and seven lakh more people could have been fed per year in the last 10 years if this damage could have been prevented.
The reply to the application filed by Dev Ashish Bhattacharya also gives details of the money spent on trying to preserve foodgrains in FCI godowns during the same period. This amount comes to a whopping Rs 243 crores.
Moreover, the amount spent in disposing of foodgrains damaged in the godowns in the last 10 years adds up to more than Rs 2 crore. Ironically, Jharkhand spent more than half of this amount despite the fact that it did not have a proportionally large quantum of damaged foodgrains.
The implications of the damage can be understood from the fact that till 2001, about 27 per cent of India’s population — about 270 million people — lived below the poverty line, defined only on calorific requirements. About 35 per cent of Indians live on $1 a day or less, and the percentage of Indians living under $2 a day goes up to 80 per cent.
Eight million children in India are malnourished, more than one-third of the world’s malnourished children, said Dr. Victor Aguayo of Unicef. Dr Vinod Kumar Paul, who heads the pediatrics department at AIIMS, said 28 per cent children in India get malnourished within the first week after birth.