Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Aug 29, 2002
Industry & Economy
Government - Politics
Diversion of rice under `food-for-work' alleged
VIJAYAWADA, Aug. 28
A CONTROVERSY is raging over the implementation of the food-for-work programme taken up by the Andhra Pradesh Government on a big scale to provide employment to the drought-affected agricultural labour.
It is being widely alleged, not only by the Opposition Congress party leaders but others as well including some Telugu Desam leaders in private, that there was large-scale fraudulent diversion (or re-cycling) of the rice released for the programme to the Food Corporation of India as levy rice, with millers and middlemen making a killing in the bargain. More than three million tonnes of rice were released by the Centre for the programme.
Lending credence to the charges of the Congress party that rice millers and ruling party leaders had benefited more from the programme than the farm labour are some interesting facts that have come to light about the rice procurement in the State.
A record 27 lakh tonnes of rice were procured in the State (2001-2002 rabi crop), the total levy for the crop year being 70 lakh tonnes.
The State Government insisted on heavy procurement by FCI, with the purpose of ensuring minimum support prices for the farmers.
But, it is alleged, a substantial portion of the rabi levy was "re-cycled rice''. It is noteworthy that some of the districts, such as Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam which normally do not have much of a rabi crop, also contributed to the levy.
Srikakulam contributed 19,730 tonnes, Visakhapatnam (2,465 tonnes) and Vizianagaram (21,957 tonnes). Similarly, some of the Telangana districts such as Ranga Reddy (54,691 tonnes) and Mahboobnagar (74,585 tonnes) and Rayalaseema districts such as Anantapur (6,431 tonnes), not known hitherto for paddy production, also came into the picture this time, giving room for suspicions that it may be re-cycled rice.
The procurement policy has also come in for criticism following allegations of grave lapses in the food-for-work programme.
"The Government should instruct FCI to procure paddy directly from the farmers in Andhra Pradesh too, as in Punjab and Haryana, if it intends to curb such malpractices,'' says Dr Y. Sivaji, President of the Andhra Pradesh Tobacco Growers' Association. "There should be no room for rice diversion.''
``As a result of the irregularities, the agricultural labour has been robbed of its due and farmers too could not get good prices. Only the millers and certain unscrupulous elements have struck it rich,'' says Mr G. Narasimharaju Yadav, a noted farmer and member of the ICAR board. "The implementation should be reviewed and the loopholes plugged before releasing any more rice.''
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