Monday, October 8, 2012

Odisha: Story of dumping of rice by Railway exposed through RTI

Monday October 08,2012

"Dumping of huge volume of rice by Railway Authorities of Cuttack drew wide reaction across the state of Odisha and activists raised the issue of  callousness of Railway Authorities questioning dump of such quantity of rice in a state like Odisha where lakhs of people go to bed hungry and lakhs live without two square meal a day. While a fact finding team of Right to Food Campaign, Odisha, failed to gather much information on this, an RTI (Right to Information) application brought to light the inside story.”

Pradip Pradhan

On August 9, 2012, almost all Newspapers carried the news about dumping of around 600 quintal of rotten rice by Railway Authorities, Cuttack at Jagatpur area which was taken away immediately by the poor slum-dwellers. After the news was published, number of organizations protested and demanded an enquiry into it and lodged an FIR against Railway Authorities with the local police station. A Fact-Finding Team of Right to Food Campaign, Odisha had also visited the spot on 10.8.12 and tried to ascertain the facts which forced Railway Authorities to dump the rice. However, the team couldn’t gather much information about the episode either from Railway Authorities or the Officers of Food Corporation of India (FCI). Many sensible Activists raised the issues of callousness of Railway Authorities and questioned how such a huge quantity of rice was dumped in a poor state like Odisha where lakhs of the people starve.

In order to know the fact behind this unfortunate incident, an application under RTI (Right to Information) Act was submitted to both Railway Authorities and Food Corporation of India, Cuttack. The information supplied by both the office revealed the inside story of the whole episode.
The information provided by the offices are as follows.
a. Food Corporation of India had booked one rake of PDS rice consisting of 41 wagons which was loaded on 9.4.2010 from Kesinga to Cuttack. However, out of 41 wagons, only 40 wagons were reached at Cuttack on 12.4.10 and one wagon containing 600 quintals of rice was reported missing.
b. Finding one Wagon of rice missing, FCI Continued to make series of official correspondence to Rail Authorities demanding Rs.11, 14, 178 towards cost of rice.
c. However after one year and eight months, the said missing wagon was placed at RH, Cuttack by Railway on 29.12.2011 for delivery to FCI.
d. FCI conducted Quality Assessment by Technical expert. It was found that rice unloaded from the wagon releases unpleasant/ obnoxious smell. The entire stock was infested with Khapra species. As regards to quality of grains, the entire stocks came in contact with water and were discoloured. The damage of grains varied bag to bag. The cake formation was also noticed. The Technical expert recommended that the Stock was not fit for human consumption. So, FCI refused to receive the stock.
e. Railway Authorities authorized Additional Chief medical superintendent, Cuttack for quality assessment. He recommended that the rice consignment is not fit for human consumption.
f. Finding no response from Railway Authorities, FCI again wrote a letter to Railway Authorities on 13.3.12 to settle the claim of Rs.11, 14, 178 as compensation.
g. On request of Railway Authorities, Central Poultry Development Organisation, Bhubaneswar made quality assessment and submitted report that the rice is not suitable for consumption of animals and birds.
h. On 6.6.12, Railway Authorities decided in a high-level meeting to dump the damaged rice (1206 bags) and informed the Station Manager, Cuttack to dump the rice by 12.6.12.
i. Then, rice was dumped at Jagatpur area on 8.8.12.
j. On 7.8.12, FCI wrote a letter again to the Railway Authorities to settle claim of Rs.4,99,643 as compensation immediately by withdrawing previous claim of Rs.11,14,178.
k. FCI is yet to receive any compensation from Railway Authorities yet.
Even though the RTI application brought to fore many facts, why FCI reduced its compensation claim from Rs.11,14,178 to Rs.4,99,178 still remains a question. As only one wagon was missing, why Railways and FCI didn’t work to settle for the missing wagon and why FCI didn’t receive 40 wagons on record? The other question is whether the rice transported was insured or not. If insured, how the amount of compensation claimed can differ? All these questions finger at how careless the officers of both parties are towards various welfare programmes implemented by the government to benefit the people.
[Author is the State Convener of Right to Food Campaign, Odisha. He, also,  leads the Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhiyan.]



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