NOBODY'S FOOD Punjab warehouses stock bottles as wheat rots in open http://epaper. hindustantimes. com/ArticleText. aspx?article= 23_04_2010_ 001_013&kword=&mode=1 Between the golden grain and the liquid, the state government's priorities seem clear. As lakhs of tonne of wheat rots in the open, warehouses of the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC) are stacked with car- tons of liquor. Chronically short of storage space, the wheat Punjab allowed to rot last year would have been enough to feed 50,000 people for an entire year, according to experts here. Nearly all of this quantity could have been accommodat- ed in the PSWC granaries that were dedicated to stocking liquor in Ludhiana district. The warehouses in other districts, including Moga, Sangrur, and Ferozepur, too have been rent- ed out to store commodities other than foodgrain. Of the 155 lakh tonne of wheat procured in Punjab last year, 99.92 lakh tonne is still stored in the open. The bumper har- vest this year can only com- pound the problem. What makes the matter almost criminal is that the gran- aries in Ludhiana have been leased out to liquor distribu- tors at a monthly rent that is not even half of the rent cur- rently charged by private par- ties for similar facilities. HT investigations reveal the PSWC is charging liquor dis- tributors Rs 18,000-Rs 22,000 for a warehouse that can hold 900 tonne. The market rent for similar storage is between Rs 40,000 and Rs 50,000. Presiding over more than one-third of the total capacity available with all state ware- housing corporations in India, the PSWC built its granaries with the sole objective of “pro- tecting the agricultural pro- duce from natural vagaries and seasonal hazards using scien- tific storage facilities“. The Warehousing Corpor- ations Act, 1962, under which the corporation functions also debar use of its godowns for any purpose other than the storage of seasonal agricultural produce, and sanctions crimi- nal action against violators. Each day, lakhs of liquor car- tons are off-loaded at PSWC godowns in Ludhiana and dis- patched to liquor vends. Wheat currently arriving from the farms, meanwhile, is finding no space in mandis that are choked with grain already purchased. Lack of storage space is a major reason for the grain not being lifted from the markets. Darbara Singh Guru, princi- pal secretary to chief minis- ter, supervising the wheat pro- curement, said: “It's a serious issue. We will have it examined.“ On his part, Gurnam Singh, Ludhiana district manger of the PSWC, said it was only a few months back that the ware- houses that had idle space were rented out to private parties. However, official records show the stores have been in possession of liquor companies for the past three or four years. A senior warehouse official revealed that the rental was increased to Rs 2 per metric tonne only this year. Earlier, it was even lower.