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Foodgrain fodder for Rebel Five

Ranchi, March 5: Timing his outburst with the revolt by the Group of Five, Union food and civil supplies minister Sharad Yadav today lashed out at the Babulal Marandi government for its poor track record in lifting foodgrain from the Food Corporation of India and its associated godowns in the state.

Yadav is president of the Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP-led government in Jharkhand. One of his ministers, Lalchand Mahto, is among the five who have demanded Marandi’s ouster.

“There is no dearth of foodgrain in the country. Jharkhand is no exception. But an artificial scarcity has been created because of the government’s failure to lift foodgrain on time and ensure distribution among the needy,” said the minister, who was in Ranchi to attend his party’s Sankalp rally to highlight the government’s “non-performance”.

Sources said the government’s lukewarm attitude could, in part, be held responsible for starvation deaths in some pockets of Jharkhand.

“The Marandi government has conveniently denied most deaths which were alleged to have occurred due to starvation. Certifying a starvation death involves a complex procedure. But the fact is that proper distribution of foodgrain can save many lives in the poverty-stricken regions of the state,” the sources added.

The minister provided detailed scheme-wise figures of the previous and current fiscal (up to February 2003) on how the Marandi government has fared in lifting foodgrain from the 15 FCI depots, including the big ones at Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Hazaribagh. The statistics are not encouraging.

Rice is the staple diet of the people of Jharkhand. During 2001-02, the Centre provided a whopping 8.40 lakh metric tonnes of rice to Jharkhand, of which the government could lift only 1.20 lakh metric tonnes. During the current fiscal, against an allotment of 12.41 lakh metric tonnes, only 1.17 lakh metric tonnes of rice was lifted up to February.

The performance on the wheat front has been equally poor. During the last financial year, 6.68 lakh tonnes of wheat was allotted to Jharkhand but the government could lift only 2.19 lakh metric tonnes. The corresponding figures for the current fiscal were 7.10 lakh metric tonnes and 2.82 lakh metric tonnes.

Yadav said rice and wheat allotted to a state are meant for distribution through the targeted public distributed schemes and constitute the crux of food availability under crucial schemes like the mid-day meal and for distribution among the below poverty line people.

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