One of the most consistent images of suffering we've seen through the lockdown has been of a lack of proper food, especially for the poor. We've seen reports of children eating grass out of desperation, and migrant labourers being given rotten, maggot-infested rice. This, despite that fact that the country has a large reserve of foodgrain just going to waste.
According to Scroll, the Central government let 65 lakh tonnes of grain go to waste in 4 months, between January 1 and May 1.
Within this time frame, the stock of rice and wheat that was not 'readily issuable', including partially spoilt as well as damaged grain, increased from 7.2 lakh tonnes to 71.8 lakh tonnes. This is more than the entire amount of grain distributed to the poor to fight food insecurity due to the lockdown.
Over the last 3 years, the Food Corporation has accumulated excess stocks that are much higher than needed. The government has 878 lakh tonnes of grain - 668 lakh tonnes higher than the norm.
The government lacks proper storage facilities for such a large amount of grain. Since it has been stored in suboptimal conditions for a lengthy period, a large part of it has been damaged. All this excess grain could have been used to offset the suffering of the lakhs of people who were left in the lurch due to the sudden lockdown.
Only 55.5 lakh tonnes of grain were distributed until May 22 through the Centre, despite there being large amounts of excess stock simply going to waste. It is truly saddening to see that despite the current situation, where people are in desperate need of assistance, they still receive nothing close to even the bare essentials.