Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday attacked the Centre over its decision to use rice to make sanitisers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He wondered when the economically weaker sections would wake up to the injustice perpetrated by the government.
“After all, when will India’s poor wake up?” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi. “You are dying of hunger and they are busy cleaning the hands of the rich by making sanitisers from your portion of rice.” The Congress leader attached a report about government’s decision to allow use of surplus rice for manufacturing sanitisers in the country.
The Centre had said on Monday that excess rice in central godowns will be converted into ethanol to make hand sanitisers, and will also be added to petrol to reduce emissions.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the National Biofuel Coordination Committee, chaired by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. “It was approved that the surplus rice available with Food Corporation of India may be converted to ethanol for utilization in making alcohol-based hand-sanitizers and in blending for Ethanol Blended Petrol programme,” a statement from the government said. Only a “small fraction” of the excess rice would be used for making sanitisers, the Centre said.
A nationwide lockdown has been imposed from March 25 to May 3 in order to combat the Covid-19 coronavirus. Last month, India banned the export of sanitisers, ventilators and masks.
However, there has been controversy over economically backward sections going without food due to the lockdown. The crisis has hit migrant labour most acutely. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced last month that 80 crore people will get 5 kg of wheat or rice and 1 kg of pulses for the next three months, for free, over and above the 5 kg of wheat or rice that they already do. This will be done through the public distribution system. However, these articles can be distributed only to those individuals who own ration cards.