A criminal waste

Amal Chatterjee
8 min readJul 23, 2019


Source : Google photo of a starving child in Somalia and the vulture waiting

Synopsis : While millions of people starve in so many countries due to famine or man made disasters like war , there are countries that produce an abundance of food that they fail to store properly leading to wastage. I give the example of India here but food wastage in many countries are shocking that many videos posted here will show. What the world needs is to share the food with the poor who are hungry and not waste it on purpose or through negligence and corruption. Believe me when I say that there is enough food in the world for every body and then some. The problem lies in how to get the food to the needy.

This photo is so heart wrenching that perhaps the whole world has seen it. It shows so starkly a starving child in Somalia who is about to die and a vulture waiting nearby for its meal. I wonder if the photographer who took this terrible photo saved the child or if he just took the photo and left the child to die and let the vulture tear his tiny body apart. Often such people just take the photos to make a scoop and move on because they do not feel any responsibility for the famine and the deaths or because they become immune to any feelings of sympathy when they see such scenes daily.

But I still feel a shock when I see this photo. I know a famous star who saved a starving child in Ethiopia famine and raised her as her own with love and care. Now that child has grown up into a beautiful woman but she is the lucky one. Millions who perished in Ethiopia and Somalia were not so lucky where the vultures and wild animals got fat gorging on the remains of such unlucky people.

Often such tragedies happen due to war or due to intentional neglect of the government like what happened in the infamous famine of Bengal in 1943 under the British Raj in India when some 3 million people starved to death . Because the grains were hoarded by the unscrupulous traders creating an artificial shortage of food and when the British government in London diverted the ship loads of food that had arrived in Kolkata port from Australia to England by the order of Winston Churchill. He did not care how many Indians died there because he did not feel anything for them.

Source : Google photo of the victims of the Bengal famine of 1943

It is a tragic photo that was taken just one year before I was born but my Ma told me about the famine later because she had seen it herself. She was lucky that our family did not suffer because my father worked for the British as an accountant so he received food rations. My great grand father at that time brought home a starving child he had picked up somewhere so my great grandmother raised him as her own so that child was very lucky indeed. My father used to call him uncle because he was no less to anyone.

India had suffered periodic food shortages after independence due to many reasons. Often the poor rainfall caused crop failures so people suffered. There was no system of storing massive quantities of food grain and set up a distribution system nationwide to bring the food to the people everywhere so the government bought food from other countries like the United States that sold poor quality grains or shipped under the PL 480 that was not even fit for animals.

Once the Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri refused such shipment and told all Indians to eat two meals less a week and eat other food grains like corn and millets. The Indians responded out of their patriotic zeal and overcame the difficulties. Since then the government started investing massively in agriculture to make the country self sufficient in food and oil crops , making irrigation available to millions of farmers, built thousands of kilometers of irrigation canals and started to buy excess food to store it in strategic locations all over India. The Indian Railway made it its priority to expand the railway network rapidly to reach every district of every state in the country so that food grains could be shipped to the distribution centers all over the country.

Here is the video that shows the evolution of the Food Corporation of India ( FCI ) that was created to buy, store and distribute food grains to everybody at a subsidized price so every Indian who has a ration card gets to buy the food, dal, sugar and other essentials from a store nearby every month. I used to buy it myself for our family every month.

Source : U tube video on how FCI stores and distributes food in India ( in English )

The video shows how the FCI collects food from the farmers, stores it in massive quantities in huge warehouses that have been built all over the country from where the food is shipped by trucks, rails and other means to thousands of distribution centers and from there to the ration shops in every community in the entire country.

But this is not the whole story. It is true that India feeds its people and has become a net exporter of food to other countries earning billions of dollars in revenue. Famines are a thing of the past because the farmers are given all the help they need to grow food and the green revolution in India is a success story that has helped increase the food production dramatically. My mentor Dr. Surajit Kumar De Datta who was a pioneer scientist in the spread of the green revolution in rice in many countries in Asia was partially responsible for it just like Dr. Norman Borlaug who spread the HYVs of wheat in India. Other scientists helped in the improvement of millet and oil seed production in India so the country now enjoys a surplus of food and exports what it does not need.

Please read my blog called the Unsung hero of the green revolution -Dr.DeDatta here.

Source : U tube video of food grain waste in India

Now you will see in this video how precious food grains are carelessly stored out in the open near the railway stations and waiting to be picked up to be stored in safe and secure warehouses somewhere. You also see the wet ground meaning the rains are falling on the sacs spoiling thousands of tons of grains. Even when the grains are stored in warehouses, millions of rats there cause massive damage to the sacs and spoil the grains. The grains are poorly handled and stored in many places due to neglect and corruption of the people involved.

In the following video you will see how a fellow is sprinkling water on the stored sacs of grains in a warehouse to spoil the grains intentionally so that he can then sell the spoiled grains at low cost to the breweries that make use of such grains. The corrupt man then fills his pocket with the loot. This happens in a country where there are still many people who are poor and do not get enough food.

There are millions of fake ration cards in the name of non existent or fake people who buy the subsidized food and sell it in the open market to make huge profit so finally the government is cracking down and has issued new tamper proof ration cards that are linked electronically to their national identification card . It has eliminated the fake cards and saves the government millions of dollars.

Source : U tube video on the spoilage of food grains in India due to corruption ( in Hindi)

It is true that Indian warehouses of the FCI are bulging with food grains and all sorts of other essentials so they desperately need to build more warehouses to increase their storage capacity but in the mean time the food grains keep arriving daily by rail or trucks so they dump them out in the open until they are transported to safe storage places . All it takes is a five minute shower to completely wet the sacs that start rotting overnight. I have seen the same neglect in Sudan where they keeps thousands of sacs of peanuts and millets out in the open without even a tarpaulin cover so even a brief rain spoils everything.

Wasting food when so many people are hungry in the world is outright criminal. I have seen how Americans waste food everyday by throwing out perfectly good food that fills the land fills. Students in our college were throwing eggs for fun at a fellow during the carnival so I could see a river of egg yolk going into the gutter that literally made me feel sick. The food is cheap there so they do not feel anything about wasting it yet there are very poor people there who search for food in the garbage bins near the fast food places because they throw away tons of uneaten or partially eaten food everyday.

When we ordered some food in Florida for us and our two kids, they brought so much food that we could not eat all of it so had to leave it. We did not know how large their portions were so we wasted our money and the food making me feel sick.

The only country I know where people are very conscious of food waste is France. They try not to waste even a single grain of food and clean their plates completely but in many countries they waste food. In India it is wasted in storage facilities like I showed above.

Here is a video of food waste in America that is an eye opener.

Source : U tube video of food waste in America ( in English )

Here is another video that shows how much food the super markets throw away.

Source : U tube video shows the food the supermarkets throw away everyday.( English)

In Spain and Italy they throw tons of tomatoes at each other for fun and farmers pour thousands of liters of pure milk on the road because the price is low or throw away truckloads of butter as well because of low prices.

The purpose of this blog is to highlight the food waste in India due to negligence and corruption and in other countries the foods are thrown away just because they are not suitable for marketing purposes. It is cheaper for the stores to throw it away than to give it to the poor. That is their capitalistic way of saving money . Who cares about the poor?

So when you waste food this way, just look at the child starving in Somalia and decide if you still want to waste food. India’s food waste in storage facilities is a big issue that the country needs to tackle because it can feed all the poor people who need it badly. It is a criminal waste when so many people are hungry even in so called rich countries.

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