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Published On: Tue, Apr 21st, 2020

You are dying of hunger & they are busy cleaning the hands of rich: Rahul Gandhi

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Rahul-21NEW DELHI : Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has hit out at the government, saying the rice that should belong to the poor is being used for “cleaning the hands of the rich”, a day after the government said excess rice in central godowns will be converted into ethanol to make hand sanitisers and will also be added to petrol to reduce emissions.
The move is seen as controversial with millions on the brink of starvation since the country went into lockdown last month to fight the rapid spread of coronavirus. He said attacked the Centre over its decision to use rice to make sanitisers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He wondered when the economically weaker sections would wake up to the injustice perpetrated by the government.

“After all, when will India’s poor wake up?” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi. “You are dying of hunger and they are busy cleaning the hands of the rich by making sanitisers from your portion of rice.” The Congress leader attached a report about government’s decision to allow use of surplus rice for manufacturing sanitisers in the country.
Meanwhile, the center today reacted sharply to opposition criticism of its decision to convert excess rice in central godowns into ethanol to make hand sanitisers and to add to petrol to reduce emissions, which was reported  on Monday.
The government on Monday said it has allowed the surplus rice available with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to be converted to ethanol for making alcohol-based hand sanitisers.
“Hygiene should not be the sole preserve of those who can afford it,” government sources shot back, asserting that the decision would bring down prices of what is the need of the hour in India’s fight against COVID-19.
Evoking a sharp response from Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who asserted that there was no shortage of food grains for the poor and asked Gandhi to shun his “negative mindset”.
Converting extra rice to ethanol is a legal process and there was three times more rice in Food Corporation of India godowns than needed, sources said, reacting to the taunt. Supply to states had also increased under the public distribution system, they said. “Hand sanitisers are also the need of the hour. Ramping up production of ethanol will bring their cost down and make them available to the poor as well.”
Quoting the National Policy on Biofuels, which allows the conversion of surplus foodgrain into ethanol, the government on Monday said the decision was taken at a meeting of NBCC (National Biofuel Coordination Committee) chaired by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Mr Pradhan had said that the committee has allowed the conversion of a “small fraction” of excess foodgrains stock into ethanol.
A number of migrant workers who were stranded in cities because of the lockdown, homeless and jobless, have said they fear dying not of coronavirus but of hunger. According to official data, the government has a total of 58.49 million tonnes of foodgrain in FCI godowns of which rice is 30.97 million tonnes and wheat 27.52 million tonnes. The foodgrain stock is much higher than the required norm of maintaining a reserve of about 21 million tonnes as on April 1.
Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), the government is supplying 5kg of foodgrain per month to over 80 crore people at a highly subsidised price of Rs 2-3 per kg. The government has also decided to distribute 5kg of foodgrain per person free of cost for the next three months to provide relief to poor people during the ongoing lockdown.
In a statement, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas said a section of the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018, allows for the conversion of surplus quantities of food grains to ethanol, based on the approval of the National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC), during an agriculture crop year when there is projected oversupply of food grains as anticipated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
The government had recently allowed sugar companies and distilleries to make hand sanitisers using ethanol. Sugar companies supply ethanol to oil marketing companies for blending with petrol.

A sugar industry body last week said that a majority of sugar companies decided to make hand sanitisers to supply to hospitals and institutions by using a part of the ethanol/ENA production.

“Some of them are supplying the sanitisers at cost price or even free of cost. With the State Excise department and State Drug Controllers giving full cooperation, this new segment of production of hand sanitisers has been successfully launched very quickly by most of the sugar companies,” said the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA).
(With Agency Inputs ).

 

 

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