With the Food Corporation of India (FCI) sticking to quality norms in purchase of rice, millers and politicians in Uttar Pradesh are up in arms.
The states Food and Civil Supplies Minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya has accused the FCI of high-handedness, while MPs from the state disrupted Lok Sabha proceedings when the issue was raised by Congress MP Jagdambika Pal on Friday, getting instant support from SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and other SP members.
Reports of protests by rice millers, who include many politicians, against rejection of their sub-standard rice were received from several districts. However, learning from the past, the FCI is refusing to budge.
In 2011-12, FCI succumbed to pressure from millers and politicians and relaxed standards. Later, during inspection, 89,900 metric tonnes of rice was found beyond rejection limit (BRL) and, therefore, discarded. Sudip Singh, FCI general manager for UP, said that more than a hundred employees and officials were chargesheeted for making the purchases.
This year, FCI has refused to wilt. Our employees are facing life threat at purchase centres. We receive such reports daily, but we have decided not to accept sub-standard rice. We may leave the centre but will not follow their dictates, said S P Singh, general secretary of the FCI Employees Union.
The quality norms followed by the FCI are uniform across the country. It accepts damaged rice (black spots) up to 3 per cent, broken up to 25 per cent, moisture content up to 14 per cent and husk up to 12 per cent. Beyond these limits, the rice is rejected. On Thursday, FCI received 1,327 lots, each of 27 metric tonnes. It accepted 858 lots and rejected the rest.
Sudip Singh said the purchases were being made in a fair manner and all reports were online. Even when we reject a lot, a sample is kept and the state officials are informed. They conduct a joint analysis on the sample and return satisfied, he said.
Last month, Food Commissioner Archana Agarwal wrote to FCI officials that rice stocks in 22 districts were nearly finished. FCI officials procured rice from Punjab, instead of buying sub-standard rice locally. This further annoyed the millers and politicians.
Raja Bhaiyya said, FCI acts in a highhanded manner. Rice is rejected on flimsy grounds. The unloading is delayed to such an extent that millers are fed up. The matter will be taken up with