The Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) today urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reverse the decision announced by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas on 20th April 2020 to allow “surplus rice available with Food Corporation of India (FCI) to be converted to ethanol for utilization in making alcohol-based hand-sanitizers and for blending in petrol” in view of the warning of Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Mr David Beasley to the UN Security Council on 22 April that 265 million people could be pushed on the brink of starvationand the world could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.
The government of India has a total of 58.49 million tons of foodgrains including 30.97 million tons of rice and 27.52 million tons of wheat in the FCI godowns.
On 20th April 2020, the National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC) under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas, Mr Dharmendra Pradhan decided to convert surplus rice to ethanol.
On 22nd April 2020, while addressing the UN Security Council on the ‘Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Protecting Civilians Affected by Conflict-Induced Hunger’, Mr David Beasley placed the latest ‘Global Report on Food Crisis’ to show that 135 million people are already facing crisis levels of hunger or worse and due to the Coronavirus, an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020 and warned that the world“could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 22nd April 2020, World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also stated that the world must be prepared for the long haul as most countries were still in the early stages of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was unthinkable that entire India and most parts of the world would be locked down for months to contain COVID-19 and there is little doubt that food production across the world will be severely affected. If a vaccine to cure COVID-19 is not found in the coming months, multiple famines of biblical proportions shall become a reality just the way the locking down of the world has become a reality now.” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of the Rights and Risks Analysis Group.
“At this stage, it would be both unwise and irresponsible to allow conversion of surplus rice with non-food purposes as the world would soon move away from the logistical problems in planting, harvesting and transporting food to simply scarcity of food. Every country of the world must fulfill its responsibility towards the humanity to address the suffering arising out of COVID-19 pandemic.” – further stated Mr Chakma.