Telangana face-off with Centre over lifting of custom-milled rice ends with some give and a little take

FCI will begin procurement of rice from Telangana millers, and the state promises to resume the stalled PMGKAY distribution

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Jul 21, 2022 | 5:49 PMUpdatedJul 28, 2022 | 2:44 PM

Telangana face-off with Centre over lifting of custom-milled rice ends with some give and a little take

The face-off between the Union government and the state on the procurement of custom-milled rice from mills in Telangana has ended with the Centre consenting to lift the rice from mills in response to a written undertaking by the state that it would act against the rice millers who had resorted to irregularities and that it would resume distribution of rice sanctioned under the Prime Minister’s Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY).

Ever since FCI announced on June 7 that it would not procure rice for its central pool from rice mills in Telangana unless the state government took action against the erring rice millers, the state government adopted a rigid stand and remained quiet, doing nothing on the Centre’s direction. On top of it, it had stopped the PMGKY, hurting the Centre’s interests.

Germinating paddy

Meanwhile, the rice millers went through a nightmarish experience as the paddy delivered to them by the state government for conversion into rice became wet under heavy rains and began germinating. Unless the FCI procured the rice that had piled up with them, the millers would not be able to take in fresh stocks of paddy which were on the premises of their mills, exposed to the mercy of the elements.

As they found the going tough in the absence of the non-resumption of procurement of paddy by the FCI, they went to Delhi and made a representation to Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food, Public Distribution Piyush Goyal that he would have to come to their rescue.

Speaking to media persons in Delhi, Goyal, who appeared to have been riled by Telangana adopting a tough posture till now, called the TRS dispensation in the state a “failed government” and that it had no concern for the poor, which was evident from its refusal to disburse the rice under the central scheme to the poor unless the Centre came forward to procure custom milled rice into the central pool.

Exchanging barbs

Not losing the opportunity to take a swipe at Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, the Union minister slam-dunked him for using abusive language against Prime Minister Narendra Modi which was not appropriate for a leader of his stature and station. The TRS is more interested in politics than welfare. We want to better the Centre-state relations, but the state turns its back, he said.

The Centre had decided to stop procurement of rice from rice mills after the FCI made an audit of the stocks of the rice in rice mills where it detected irregularities.

The millers had stocked the rice in such a way that the FCI teams could not count them properly. The teams found that in some mills, there was a deficit in the quantity of rice, which was an indication that the rice had been diverted.  The FCI found that there was a shortage of 4.5 lakh bags in all mills put together. In some mills, the FCI had found that the rice was adulterated, which reduced its quality.