SC slaps Pawar; says free food distribution is our order

He had dismissed it as ‘suggestion’ when asked to distribute food rotting in the open


Prasanna Mohanty | August 31, 2010

Finally, it took the Supreme Court to discipline Sharad Pawar, our food and agriculture minister.

“Tell your minister that free food distribution is our order, not a suggestion by us”, the apex court curtly told the government advocate today.

This came in response to Pawar’s dismissive reply to an earlier directive by a two-member bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma on August 13: “The food grains are rotting. You can look after your own people. As a part of short-term measure, distribute it to the hungry for free”.

Pawar’s response was typical of the man. “It's not possible to implement the Supreme Court's order", he said repeatedly over the next few days, the last of which came in Mumbai last Sunday. He even dismissed the court’s observation as a mere “suggestion” and went on to point out how the government was paying a food subsidy of over Rs 60,000 crore. He also pointed out that the government was buying wheat at Rs 16 a kg but giving it to the poor at Rs 2 a kg under the Antyodaya Anna Yojna.

Pawar dismissed news reports of thousands of tonne of food grains rotting in Food Corporation of India’s godowns all across the country as “exaggerated”.

The apex court had expressed dismay at media reports which carried photographs of wheat and rice rotting in the open in Punjab, UP, Haryana, Rajasthan and other parts of the country. One report from Jaipur showed how FCI godown was storing liquor bottles in its godown while wheat bags had been left to rott in the rain outside.

But Pawar didn’t take media report or the apex court’s directive to distribute free the excess food grains FCI had procured but couldn’t store and had left to rot.

Neither did the prime minister nor the Congress leadership took note of it or discipline the Maratha strongman, who has been devoting more time to cricket and his other business interests. He had even asked the prime minister to reduce his “burden” after being designated as the chief of the International Cricket Council.

The apex court-appointed food commissioners pointed out in their affidavit to the apex court today how 50,000 tonne of food grains have already gone bad and how 1.35 lakh tonne of food grains are lying in the open in Punjab alone, since 2008-9. -----




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