GUWAHATI: Rights body, Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reverse the decision on allowing surplus rice available with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to be converted to ethanol for utilization in making alcohol-based hand-sanitizers and blending in petrol.
The RRAG said the latest global report on food crisis, placed by the UN World Food Programme, showed that 135 million people were already facing crisis levels of hunger or worse and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the year-end. It warned that the world “could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months".
The RRAG said the National Biofuel Coordination Committee under the Chairmanship of Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had on April 20 decided to convert surplus rice to ethanol. The government of India has a total of 58.49 million tons of foodgrains including 30.97 million tons of rice and 27.52 million tons of wheat in the FCI godowns, RRAG said.
“It was unthinkable that entire India and most parts of the world would be locked down for months to contain COVID-19 and there is little doubt that food production across the world will be severely affected. If a vaccine to cure COVID-19 is not found in the coming months, multiple famines of biblical proportions shall become a reality just the way the locking down of the world has become a reality now,” stated RRAG director Suhas Chakma.
He added: “At this stage, it would be both unwise and irresponsible to allow conversion of surplus rice with non-food purposes as the world would soon move away from the logistical problems in planting, harvesting and transporting food to simply scarcity of food. Every country must fulfil its responsibility towards humanity to address the suffering arising out of COVID-19 pandemic.”