In fields along a northern Indian highway, mountains of grain have turned black with mildew after getting soaked in the rain.
The millions of tons of wheat rotting because India ran out of warehouse space to hold another bumper crop illustrate a core problem of the nation's food crisis: India can grow plenty of food but cannot store or transport it well enough to nourish its 1.2 billion people.
Warehouses are overflowing and huge quantities of wheat and rice are stored in fields under tarpaulins and thin plastic sheets, risking decay.
Food Minister K.V. Thomas said Thursday the government was taking "all necessary steps" to increase its storage capacities.
The government had partnered with the private sector to attract investment in building warehouses and new storage spaces would be available by the end of the year, Thomas said.
Opposition parties, and even some of the ruling Congress Party's coalition partners, have called the rotting grain a scandal.
"It is unfortunate that while people are dying of hunger, food grain is rotting in the open," said Sharad Yadav, a key opposition leader.
"We are confronting a serious food crisis, and the government is indifferent to this colossal waste," Yadav said.
In Khamanon village of Punjab state, farm workers Wednesday picked out grains from a mound of mildewed wheat, trying to salvage what was still edible.
The wheat has been lying in the open nearly a year, during which the plastic sheeting that covered it had developed holes, exposing the grain to rain, frost and sun.
Around the workers were hundreds of thousands of sacks of grain stacked nearly 3 meters (15 feet) high in an open area the size of a football field. Some sacks had split open and the grain had formed dense black clumps.
The edible grain would be repacked in fresh sacks and sold, said a caretaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he did not wish to be identified.
Four bumper harvests over the past five years have swelled food grain production across the states of Punjab and Haryana, collectively known as the "granary of India.' Continued...