In a latest decision made by the government, there are plans of picking up excess rice from the central godowns and converting it into ethanol for making hand sanitisers. There are plans of also using the produced ethanol for adding to petrol for the reduction of emissions. This order by the government is likely to be considered quite controversial with millions of people in India on the brinks of starvation amid the nation-wide lockdown.
The National Policy of Biofuels allows the government to cover excess food grain into ethanol and this policy was quoted by the government behind its decision to use the excess stocks of rice.
The central government on Monday shared its plans of using “surplus rice” which is available with the Food Corporation of India(FCI) to produce alcohol bases hand sanitisers.
This decision came after a meeting headed by the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas. In a press release made by the government, it was said, “A meeting of NBCC was held today under the chairmanship of the Minister of Natural Gas Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, wherein it was approved that the surplus rice available with the Food Corporation of India(FCI) may be converted into ethanol for utilisation in making alcohol based hand sanitises and in blending for Ethanol based Petroleum(EBP)programme.”
As of March 1, stocks of wheat and rice that were in control of the FCI stood at 77.6 million tonnes(mt). This is considered to be more than three and a half times the minimum operational buffer cum strategic stock of 21,04 mt required to be maintained for April 1 according to a report published in The Indian Express.
This decision of the government is likely to be considered controversial because over the last couple of weeks many reports have emerged from different parts of the country where the poorest of the poor have been going hungry and even dying of starvation. In a situation like this, how justified is the government in utilising its excess stocks of rice for producing sanitisers while thousands of people are dying due to starvation?