Food Corp's labourers earns up to Rs4 lakh monthly: panel report

A government-appointed committee set up to look into the functioning of the state-controlled Food Corporation of India (See: Govt panel against breaking up Food Corp monopoly), says corruption is rampant in the FCI, which has a virtual monopoly on the procurement of grains.

The committee headed by Shanta Kumar, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party member and former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh as well as former union food minister, submitted its report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week, in which it has suggested a complete overhaul of India's food economy.

Among other things, it points out that due to an incentive system and widely used proxy labour, some low-level workers in the FCI are earning a whopping salary of Rs4 lakh a month or almost Rs50 lakh a year, which is more than double the pay of the agency's chairman-cum-managing director.

The committee says these labourers should be given voluntary retirement.

Loaders, who load and unload wheat or rice bags at different stages of movement - from the mandis or village markets to trucks, and from trucks to godowns - are the backbone of the central agency, which runs the centre's public distribution system.

''More than 300 loaders have received wages, including arrears, amounting to more than Rs4 lakh in August last year. The aberration must be checked,'' says the report.

The report says each loader, a permanent employee of the FCI, earns an average salary of Rs79,500, equivalent to that of senior category-1 officers like assistant and deputy general managers. The report has recommended getting rid of these loaders, who number around 16,000 throughout the country.

The figures on the average earning of a loader are based on a data of payments made to them from April to November 2014. ''The department labour should be given a suitable voluntary retirement scheme and gradually phased out,'' recommends the report.

Reacting to the development, FCI general manager Aseem Chhabra said, ''There are some depots in Maharashtra where their earnings are from Rs1 lakh to 1.5 lakh every month. They earn in proportion to the work they do. They do heavy work the entire day, lifting grain bags on their back and taking them from one place to another.''

Chhabra said many loaders earned meagre remuneration. The forced VRS might see opposition from the labourers as they dread the prospect of the report being implemented, he added.

The aberration, according to the report, has cropped up because of the incentive system in the notified depots and the widely used proxy labour.

''De-notify depots, hand them over to the states or the private sector, by fixing maximum limit on their incentive that does not allow them to work for more than 1.25 times the work agreed upon, mechanise depots and reduce reliance on departmental labour,'' suggests the report.