The state of Maharashtra, governed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, has been the worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Maharashtra has had upwards of 3 million positive cases and even in the second wave, the worst-hit state in India is Maharashtra. Under the circumstances, the central government and the state governments were expected to work closely to implement welfare schemes that could help the needy sail through difficult times. However, the Maharashtra government seems to have failed at that.p
MLA Mulund, Mihir Kotecha, put out a video of the massive wastage of Chana Dal/pulses in Maharashtra due to the bad policies of the state, especially Chagal Bhujhbal who is serving as Cabinet Minister of Food and Civil Supply, Consumer Affairs in Government of Maharashtra.
पंतप्रधान @narendramodi जी यांनी जनतेच्या हीतासाठी दिलेली डाळ,— Mihir Kotecha (@mihirkotecha) April 14, 2021
भुजबळांच्या चुकीच्या धोरणामुळे कीडे पडुन पीठ पीठ झाली….. @OfficeofUT यांच्याकडे केली भुजबळांच्या राजीनाम्याची मागणी @Dev_Fadnavis pic.twitter.com/Ju8COJYagA
In the video posted by Kotecha, he says that the pulses that have now got infested and spoilt have been lying there since August/September. According to him, since October, 1,800 kg Dal have been spoilt in this shop itself. In other places, 3,00,000 kg chana dal has been spoilt. For the past three months, he says that the Maharashtra government, especially Chagan Bhujbal, are extremely busy responding to him. According to him, Rs 180 crores worth of pulses have now gone to waste in Maharashtra.
Further, OpIndia accessed a note by the Government of India that shows how the Maharashtra government delayed in writing to the central government about the leftover pulses with the state, allocated under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, while other states got their permission to avoid wastage.
In the note, it is detailed that in the beginning of the distribution of pulses, the Department of Consumers Affairs, through various Video Conferences (VC) with the States/UTs, had instructed the following to avoid spoilage of pulses:
- In the video conference held on 22nd July 2020, it was decided that the balance pulses/chana whole under PMGKAY-1 and Atma Nirbhar Bharat lying with the States should be utilized against the distribution under extended PMGKAY-2
- In the joint video conference held on 2nd September 2020, it was decided that any leftover quantity of foodgrains/pulses which remain undistributed shall be adjusted with subsequent allocation/lifting of the whole chana under the ongoing PMGKAY-2. This was again reiterated in the VC held on 22nd September and States were asked to inform NAFED accordingly about their adjusted allocations so that spoilage could be minimized.
Interestingly, according to the note, in the video conference held on the 26th of November 2020, Maharashtra had informed the central government that they had 910 MT under PMGKAY-1 and 804 MT under Atma Nirbhar Bharat was left-over with the state and therefore, the central government should make adjustments in the subsequent release of pulses under PMGKAY-2.
After this, a special request by Maharashtra had also delayed the allocation of pulses under PMGKAY-2. Maharashtra had specially requested to distribute processed chana dal and therefore, the allocation was delayed by a bit.
Further, after the allocation of pulses under PMGKAY-2, the states were informed on the 18th of December 2020 that they are to give the central government an audit to inform them of the distribution done and the number of pulses left with the state. Subsequently, after several reminders, other states did sent their audits to the central government and asked permission for the utilisation of the left-over pulses with them.
Here is a table of when the other states requested for the utilisation of left-over pulses.
While the central government gave their approval to the other states to utilise the left-over pulses, Maharashtra was left behind, and not for the fault of the central government.
While the central government informed states and requested an audit of numbers on 18th December and other states managed to send in their requests to utilise left-over pulses latest by March 2021 (Congress ruled Rajasthan, Left ruled Kerala, and AAP led Delhi), Maharashtra delayed the request even further.
According to the note by the Government of India, Maharashtra wrote a letter to the central government on the 6th of April 2021that 6441.922 MT of pulses/chana whole is leftover quantity under PMGKAY I & II and ANB. The central government further received the letter on the 8th of April. The approval by the central government came on the 13th of April and the response to the Maharashtra government was sent on the 15th of April 2021. Per this permission by the central government, Maharashtra was informed it may utilize 6441.922 MT of the leftover quantity of pulses /chana whole for distribution among National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiary households through various welfare schemes/ programmes run by the Government.
What is extremely relevant in this case is the fact that while the Government of India had asked the state to provide details of left-over pulses on 18th December 2020 itself, Maharashtra waited till April 6th 2021 to tell the central government about the left-over pulses, thousands of metric tonnes that too. In the meantime, it is apparent from the video that several thousand tonnes of the pulses, that should have benefitted the needy under harsh conditions of a pandemic, have gone to waste and have been deemed unfit for consumption.
In the time of a pandemic, the Maharashtra government must provide an answer as to why thousands of tonnes of pulses seem to have gone to waste and why the Maharashtra government waited for months, from December to April, to write to the central government about the utilisation of left-over pulses.