April 19, 2020
We are herewith releasing the full text of the letter addressed to Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan by CPI(M) Polit Bureau Member, Brinda Karat on April 18, 2020, urging him to release foodgrain stocks lying with the FCI free through the PDS.
For CPI(M) Central Committee Office
Full Text of the Letter
Shri Ram Vilas Paswan
Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Government of India
Dear Shri Paswan ji,
Namaskar. This is with reference to the policy declared by the Ministry regarding permission to NGOs to buy rice and wheat directly from the FCI godowns for relief work at a reserve price fixed by the Government witnout going through e- auctions. The PIB release of April 8 with this information did not however disclose the fixed price at which NGOs are permitted to buy, which it should have given. As far as wheat is concerned the fixed price is Rs 21.50 per kg. The price of rice is 22.50 per kg. These prices are extremely high. Even the wholesale price data available on the website of the Ministry shows that the open market prices of wheat are lower in many markets than what is being offered by the Government to NGOs for relief.
The Government has as on April 7, 54.2 million tonnes of foodgrains in storage which is far above the required buffer stock. In spite of all its efforts it has failed to sell this huge surplus stock through e- auctions for commercial purposes. This stock is rotting in FCI godowns and as is known the Government needs to dispose off the stocks to make space in its godowns for the upcoming rabi wheat procurement. Now to try and offload this stock in the name of relief at these high prices to NGOs is shocking and unethical to say the least.
Provision of foodgrains is a responsibility of the Government. The Government should distribute this stock free at a time when starvation haunts crores of families without any income or work. If it wants to involve NGOs and philanthropic organisations in relief work, surely its intention should not be to make profits in the name of relief from sales of stocks no one else is buying?
I strongly urge you as Food Minister to distribute these stocks free through the PDS. The usual conditions of AADHAR and ration cards should not apply as many section of the population, particularly migrant workers do not have such identification. The burden of the lockdown is falling disproportionately on the shoulders of India’s labouring classes. The policy of the Government during the lockdown and in its aftermath, should be suitably altered to address this reality.
Member, Polit Bureau
Communist Party of India (Marxist)