Maharashtra government is yet to put in place the logistics for the distribution of nearly 7,500 metric tons (MT) of pulses meant for those suffering from the vagaries of a truant monsoon. The buffer stock worth over Rs 400 crore is languishing in godowns at Latur, Akola, Jalgaon, Udgir and Yavatmal, now raising fears of a repeat of previous year’s scam that occurred last year when nearly 74,846 tonnes of pulses were seized from the hoarders with the state failing to distribute procured stock to the milling units.
The fears were raised at a meeting of the state price monitoring committee on pulses on April 21, where members pointed out that the government must soon decide the fate of the procured stock being accumulated from the start of 2016. The stock has been purchased by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) as a ‘market intervention’ on the request of the Union Ministry of Agriculture.
Members of the committee said the government is yet to chalk out a plan to transport 7,367.5 MT of tur, urad and chana to the milling units over disagreement of prices being charged by the millers. The government also does not have a plan to distribute the stock to the poor through the public distribution system (PDS). “They have no clue where the milling and polishing of the naked grain is going to be carried out or what will be the recovery percentage millers are going to charge, all this while a huge stock is lying at the FCI godowns,” said a member of the committee.
Another member added that concerns were raised over the repeat of the scam from last year, when of the total 74,846 tonnes of pulses seized from the hoarders across 13 states, the maximum 46,397 tonnes were recovered from hoarders in Maharashtra. “Irony was that the government ended up handing out the same stock (via auction) to traders who were themselves involved in hoarding in the first place,” said a member of the committee.
Senior official from the FCI said they had started procuring pulses since January. So far 7,200 MT of tur at Rs 8,900 per quintal, 163 MT of urad at Rs 4,800 per quintal and 4.5 MT of chana at Rs 10,800 per quintal has been procured. “We do not yet have information on what the state wants to do with this stock, whether they want to distribute it through PDS or auction it directly into the market. We do not have any experience of distribution or transportation,” said GS Rajasekhar, general manager, FCI (Maharashtra).
Senior officials in the food and civil supplies department said while they are focussed on the distribution, the state had already enacted a pulse price control act to ally fears of price rise and hoarding in the market. “This is a drought-like situation but this government is refusing to take tough calls. Unlike Tamil Nadu and Telangana, Maharashtra also does not procure round the year, leading to confusion in its PDS policy,” said Nitin Kalantari, exporter/importer of pulses from Latur.