CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat on Sunday wrote to Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan, saying offloading surplus stock at high prices to NGOs in the name of relief is both "unethical and shocking".
Her remarks came in reference to a policy declared by Paswan's ministry regarding permission to NGOs to buy rice and wheat directly from the FCI godowns for relief work at a reserve price fixed by the government without going through e-auctions.
"The PIB release of April 8 with this information did not however disclose the fixed price at which NGOs are permitted to buy, which it should have given," Karat said in the letter.
"As far as wheat is concerned the fixed price is Rs 21.50 per kg. The price of rice is Rs 22.50 per kg. These prices are extremely high. Even the wholesale price data available on the website of the Ministry shows that the open market prices of wheat are lower in many markets than what is being offered by the Government to NGOs for relief," she said.
The CPI(M) leader said the government has, as on April 7, 54.2 million tonnes of foodgrains in storage, which is far above the required buffer stock.
"In spite of all its efforts, it has failed to sell this huge surplus stock through e- auctions for commercial purposes. This stock is rotting in FCI godowns and as is known the government needs to dispose of the stocks to make space in its godowns for the upcoming rabi wheat procurement. Now to try and offload this stock in the name of relief at these high prices to NGOs is shocking and unethical to say the least," she said.
In the letter, Karat said provision of foodgrains is a responsibility of the government.
She urged the Union minister to distribute this stock free among the needy through the Public Distribution System (PDS).
"If it wants to involve NGOs and philanthropic organisations in relief work, surely its intention should not be to make profits in the name of relief from sales of stocks no one else is buying," Karat said.
"I strongly urge you as Food Minister to distribute these stocks free through the PDS. The usual conditions of AADHAR and ration cards should not apply as many sections of the population, particularly migrant workers do not have such identification. The burden of the lockdown is falling disproportionately on the shoulders of India's labouring classes. The policy of the Government during the lockdown and in its aftermath, should be suitably altered to address this reality," she added.