Call to Gherao FCI offices on April 5, 2021
(Protests were organized throughout the country at FCI offices against Govt. attempts to dismantle procurement at MSP and Public Distribution System. Call for the protest was given by Samyukt Kisan Morcha. We are here publishing SKM call for these protests.)
Samyukta Kisan Morcha has called for Gherao of FCI offices on 5 April to oppose Govt’s attempts to dismantle both the PDS food distribution and the MSP procurement.
GOI claims that the cost of handling food storage is huge, Rs 37/kg for rice and Rs 27/kg for wheat. It is a big burden. For the last several years, GOI has not cleared all dues of this FCI expense and total debt on FCI today is Rs 3.81 lac crores. It pays more than 8% interest on this. The budget allocation for food subsidy continues to remain around Rs 1,15,000 crores for last several years and even this amount is not spent by the govt.
Under the Essential Commodities Amendment Act 2020, the GOI has freed up stock limits by all private traders and Corporate and permitted annual increase in food grain prices by 50%. This will increase food hoarding and black marketing. The new Mandi Act will promote private mandis and practically wind up Govt procurement and MSP rates. Food will be handled totally by the private sector. The Acts will increase control of private sector in food storage, cold storage, food processing and marketing. Ultimately the Govt plans to wind up subsidized food distribution under PDS and reduce it to a cash transfer scheme under pressure from WTO. It plans to sell off the FCI warehouses also to the private sector to pay off the debts.
The Govt is responsible for food security of the country and for this it has to procure food, maintain food stocks to tide over calamities and provide food to the poor and distribute it to ensure that people are not forced to remain hungry. There are 81.35 crore PDS beneficiaries, granted 5 kg per month and they will be forced to buy from open market if PDS is wound up. PDS supplies around 50 million tonnes of food to the poor. If the poor have to buy from the open market they will starve and deaths due to food shortage will increase. Private Corporates will benefit.
The GOI claims incorrectly that there is surplus food in India. It states that it has more than double the required food stock of around 42 million tonnes. This is mainly because food has not been adequately supplied to the poor and needy. India is rated at 94 out of 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index. Its score of 27.2 shows a serious hunger situation in the country and over last few years this has worsened. It shows that around 35% of the population is undernourished.
Recently the FCI also changed the rules for the procurement system of crops which will increase problems of sale by share croppers.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha has decided to observe April 5 as FCI Bachao Divas and FCI offices across the country will be gheraoed from 11 am to 6 pm. It is a matter of the future for both food growers and food eaters, so large numbers should take part in this protest and raise the demand for guaranteeing procurement of all crops at MSP and making PDS run efficiently.