Exercised over the government's failure to provide adequate storage for foodgrains procured by it, the Supreme Court directed the authorities to distribute free to the poor and hungry the grain it can't store. As much as 17.8 million tonnes of food grain, enough to feed 140 million people for a month, is being wasted because of shortage of storage facilities.
''The foodgrains are rotting. You can't look after your own people. As a part of short-term measure, distribute it to the hungry for free,'' a bench headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari told additional solicitor general Mohan Parasaran, reminding the centre of its responsibility to ensure food security. The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by the People Union for Civil Liberties.
The court suggested the government should increase the quantity of food supply to the below poverty line (BPL) cardholders and also keep its fair price shops open on all days of a month.
Parasaran told the court that it was not possible to store the foodgrains as there had been record procurement of wheat and rice, of which the central pool has stocks of 604.28 lakh tonnes. At this the bench said, ''When you procure wheat or rice, you should ensure there is that much of storage capacity. You spend money to buy it. Instead of wasting it and letting it go down the drain, give it to the hungry people.''
It directed the government to construct at least one large Food Corporation of India godown in every state and consider the possibility of having a godown in every division if not in every district of the State.
On the request of the petitioner's counsel, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, the court ordered all the state governments to file an affidavit giving reasons for not distributing 35 kg of wheat or rice per family as per its earlier directions.