BENGALURU: There are enough foodgrain stocks to last till March 31 next year, according to DV Prasad, chairman, Food Corporation of India. He tells The New Sunday Express that though many godowns in the Karnataka are in the red zone, there is no cause for serious concern. Since 1971, this is the first big food challenge India faces.
Nanjangud FCI godown has been sealed because it is in a red zone, what is the situation with other godowns in Karnataka?
We are not accessing any food from that godown. As far as the other godowns in Karnataka are concerned, one in Kalaburagi is sealed because it is in a red zone. The FCI godown in Bengaluru’s KR Puram is in red zone, so also the ones in Mangaluru, Belagavi, Vijayapura, Mandya, Bagalkot, Mysuru and Bidar. But none of the FCI employees in Karnataka have been affected.
When our godown is in a red zone, it slows down our operations. The work at the Chamarajnagar godown is affected because most of the labour comes from Nanjanagud which is sealed. We have a local and national control room which monitors the situation 24/7. We work round-the-clock; I receive calls even at midnight, depending on the situation.
It is one month since the lockdown. How are we placed as against the buffer requirements ?
Nationally we have stocks of about 53 million tonnes. Even considering that we are giving out 10 kg per person to about 81 crore beneficiaries, we can go on till March 31 next year. This is because we expect about 35 million tonnes of Rabi wheat and about 10 million tonnes of Rabi rice now, and thereafter, we expect 41 million tonnes of Kharif rice.
Although these are peculiar circumstances, I have confidence that we have enough stocks. The buffer requirement is 21 million tonnes (13.5 MMT rice and 7.5 MMT wheat). The average outflow of stocks in a month is about 5 million tonnes under the various government schemes. We have been consistently increasing our storage capacity in the state. FCI is fully equipped to meet the requirements of the state during and after the lockdown period.
How much have your operations been affected due to the lockdown ?
FCI is essentially a logistic operator working on a 24/7 basis. In any given day of the year, we either load or unload about 60 trainloads (about 1.68 lakh MT). Being a labour-intensive operation, about 50,000 people are involved in our work on a daily basis. Naturally the countrywide lockdown has posed a big challenge to us.
This was further compounded by the additional requirements of foodgrains from every state after the announcement of 5 kg extra foodgrains to about 81 crore beneficiaries free of cost. So we were in a situation where we had to double our operations when the whole country was shutting down. We have three levels of employees -- 40,000 workers, department staff and about 80,000 contract workers. We take extra care and maintain social distancing compulsorily.
Have you been able to meet the requirements of the states under these conditions ?
Yes. We also ensured replenishing our warehouses in consuming states by undertaking a record level of movement of foodgrains during the lockdown period. We moved 1,649 trainloads carrying about 4.6 MMT foodgrains and unloaded 1,541 trainloads (about 4.2 MMT) during the 27 days of lockdown.
How does Karnataka fare nationality?
As things stand now, Karnataka stands only next to Bihar as far as FCI operations are concerned. Normally about 3 lakh tonnes of foodgrains are distributed. But this month, about 5.74 lakh tonnes, almost double, have been distributed. Karnataka has received about 203 rakes, that is about 5.7 lakh tonnes. This, in spite of the red zone issues.
State Congress president D K Shivakumar alleged that 1,800 plus quintals of rice meant for free distribution to public were transported for illegal gains ?
There are different godowns -- state and FCI. That issue must be concerning state godowns. Food distribution is a state issue under the government of Karnataka.