The mystery behind dumping of 600 quintal rotten rice at Cuttack’s Jagatpur by the railway authorities is yet another story of how the foodgrains meant to feed the poor get wasted. Over 1200 bags of PDS rice not only went missing for two years but when it finally reached the destination at Cuttack, it was moth-eaten and unfit for human consumption. Now the Food Corporation of India and East Coast Railway (ECoR) are tied in a fight over the compensation.
The matter came to light on August 9 when the rotten rice was grabbed by slum- dwellers of Jagatpur after being dumped by the railways. A slew of protests followed. An FIR was also filed against railway authorities in a local police station.
While the authorities remained tight lipped, RTI activists found that the rice lost its way while being transhipped from Kesinga. It was the FCI which had booked one rake of PDS rice comprising 41 wagons which were loaded from Kesinga on April 9, 2010 and despatched to Cuttack. Of the 41 wagons, only 40 reached Cuttack three days later and one wagon carrying 600 quintal rice went missing. The FCI, which reported the missing wagon, sought ` 11, 14,178 towards cost of rice from the East Coast Railway.
It was after a year and eight months, they said the missing wagon made it to Cuttack and railways offered delivery to the FCI. The Corporation conducted quality assessment with the help of technical experts who found that the rice unloaded from the wagon emitted unpleasant smell and the entire stock was infested with insects. The grains are discoloured and had become damp. The damage, however, varied from bag to bag. The technical experts recommended that the stock was unfit for human consumption and FCI refused to receive the stock, information received by Right to Food Campaign, Odisha, through the RTI revealed.
In response, the ECoR authorised an additional chief medical superintendent for quality assessment, who also recommended that the rice consignment was not fit for human consumption.
While the FCI continued to make correspondence and sought the compensation, the ECoR kept silent. The Central Poultry Development Organisation, Bhubaneswar, also made a quality assessment and submitted a report that the rice
is unsuitable for consumption even for animals and birds.
On June 6, the ECoR authorities decided to dump the damaged rice in 1,206 bags and instructed the Station Manager, Cuttack, for the same. Two months later, the rice was found dumped.
Meanwhile, the FCI again wrote to the ECoR to settle a claim of ` 4,99,643 as compensation immediately by withdrawing the previous claim of ` 11,14,178. The FCI is yet to receive any compensation from railway authorities.
Right To Food Campaign’s Pradip Pradhan alleged that it was the callousness of railway authorities which is why such a huge quantity of rice was dumped in Odisha, where lakhs of people fail to get two square meals a day