Coronavirus | Opposition slams move to make ethanol from surplus rice

Pass on benefit of global oil price crash, says CPI (M)


Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday took to Twitter to target the Union government over reports that surplus rice stocks would be used to make ethanol for hand sanitisers and also took on the Centre for not passing on the benefits of the sharp fall in international crude prices.

“After all, when will India’s poor wake up? You are dying of hunger and they are busy cleaning the hands of the rich by making sanitizers from your portion of rice,” Mr. Gandhi tweeted and tagged a news clipping about the government move.

On Monday, at a meeting of the National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC), the government is reported to have given in-principle approval to a policy that will allow surplus rice available with Food Corporation of India (FCI) to be converted into ethanol to manufacture alcohol-based hand sanitizers and for blending with petrol.

At its official online briefing, the Congress claimed that the surplus rice could be used to universalise the public distribution system (PDS) and feed the needy for the next six months.

Addressing the media, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said foodgrains in the FCI warehouses could have come to the aid of lakhs of migrant workers who are facing hunger.

“Let’s assume for a minute that we have to feed 80% of our population for the next six months under universalised PDS, giving them 10 kg of foodgrains per month, do you know we are capable of doing that for the next 6 months?…In a scenario like this, if you come and announce that surplus rice will be used to make sanitizers, it is a cruel joke,” Mr. Khera said.

While Mr. Gandhi also questioned why the government had not passed on the benefit of the crude oil price crash, CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the government should not ‘profit from people’s misery’.

“There is no reason for Modi to continue charging exorbitant rates for cooking gas, diesel and petrol after crude prices have crashed globally. The shutdown has brought the economy to a halt and people need all the relief. It doesn’t befit the Centre to profit from people’s misery,” Mr. Yechury tweeted.

“Prices of crude oil have fallen to unexpected levels in the world, yet why is petrol in our country sold at ₹69, diesel at ₹62. It is good that prices have fallen in this disaster. When will this government listen,” said Mr. Gandhi in another tweet.