Sanitiser over hunger: Centre to make ethanol from excess foodgrains

To balance the supply of hand sanitisers in the market, the government has decided to utilise the excess food grains to manufacture ethanol

Underprivileged women in sarees stand in a ilne following the social distancing norms to collect food rations at a donation drive | iStock

Hunger is rising in India, and so is the government’s blind eye towards the distressed, especially the migrant workers.

In a country where 53 people have died due to exhaustion, hunger and suicides for lack of food or livelihood amid the COVID-19 lockdown, the central government has decided to use excess foodgrains for manufacturing hand sanitisers.

To balance the supply of hand sanitisers in the market, the petroleum ministry on Monday (April 20) decided to utilise the excess foodgrains stocked in central godowns to manufacture ethanol.

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“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,” read a government statement.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC), chaired by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, reported NDTV.

As per the national policy of Biofuels, if there is a projected oversupply of food grains as anticipated by the ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare during a crop year, the policy allows conversion of these surplus quantities of food grains into ethanol.

The move comes after the government promised to feed around 800 million poor people across the country for the next three months. “No one will go hungry,” Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said.

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According to the Stranded Workers Action Network (Swan), a group of researchers from Azim Premji University and Libtech India, who tracked migrant workers between March 27 and April 13, 96 per cent of the stranded migrants have not yet received free ration as promised by the government.

In addition to this, various media reports suggest that the central godowns of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) have been full, while thousands are starving.

(With inputs from agencies)