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Toxic Relief: India Supplies Foul Cooking oil, Rice to Nepal 

Nepalese investigators have discovered substantial amounts of toxic rice, cooking oil in relief supplies from India.

Updated
India
3 min read
An Indian military personnel and earthquake survivors unload relief supplies from an Indian Army helicopter near Sirdibas, Nepal, May, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Even as most Nepalese struggle to put their broken lives together following the widespread devastation wrought by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake of April 25, reports are emerging that officials have discovered that spurious relief supplies were sent from India through the UN-aided World Food Programme (WFP) and Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS).

About 5,000 tons of rotten rice, lifted from India, and 7,000 litres of toxic vegetable oil, which was provided by the United Arab Emirates, but manufactured in India, were sent as part of India’s relief effort for Nepal in the immediate aftermath of the killer quake.

Pointing to the suspected involvement of Indian suppliers, an anguished Prime Minister’s Office in Kathmandu has written to Narendra Modi’s PMO, requesting officials in New Delhi to first investigate, and then punish the suppliers who might be involved in the suspected racket.

A Supply Scandal?

Indian military personnel and earthquake survivors unload relief supplies from an Indian Army helicopter near Sirdibas, Nepal, May, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Indian military personnel and earthquake survivors unload relief supplies from an Indian Army helicopter near Sirdibas, Nepal, May, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
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The “supply scandal”, as some Nepalese officials are describing it, comes in the wake of earlier reports of the insensitive manner in which the Indian media covered the human consequences of the catastrophic earthquake.

On May 26, the Nepal National Human Rights Commission directed the government of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to initiate legal proceedings against WFP and NRCS for their role in distributing inedible rice among the victims. The matter came to light when nearly 100 children in Kavre district were struck with diarrhoea after consuming the rice that the NRCS distributed.

A statement issued by the human rights panel said that the Nepalese government must order an investigation and take legal action against officials of WFP and NRCS for allowing the distribution of rice found unsuitable for consumption. Nepalese officials involved in the probe disclosed that the rice shipment was lifted from India a couple of weeks after the quake struck Nepal.

An Indian connection has also been found in the supply of toxic vegetable oil whose containers carry the label ‘Himalaya Refined Vegetable’. The oil, which was sent to the Nepalese Department of Commerce and Supply Management (NDCSM), was found to have been manufactured in India and delivered through the UAE’s embassy in New Delhi.

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A Long-standing Racket

Nepalese army personnel jump out from an Indian helicopter as they unload earthquake relief aid on a hilltop at Dolkha district, Nepal, May, 2015. (Photo: Reuters) 
Nepalese army personnel jump out from an Indian helicopter as they unload earthquake relief aid on a hilltop at Dolkha district, Nepal, May, 2015. (Photo: Reuters) 
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Speaking to The Quint over phone, NNHRC Secretary Ved Bhattarai said investigating officials suspect a huge racket behind the supply of toxic cooking oil and rice. In a preliminary report submitted to the Nepalese parliament, the NNHRC, quoting the findings of the monitoring team that is probing the issue, has said in clear terms that the quality of rice and cooking oil supplied was not only substandard, but also “totally damaged.”

“The monitoring team has found that the rice, grown in India, had apparently been tested in a laboratory called CSQ, but there was neither any symbol, nor any logo of the facility on the bags containing the grain,” Bhattarai said, adding that this was revealed to him by the Director General, NDCSM.

The official further revealed that the supply of toxic food substances is not limited to a few distribution centres. Two days ago, the WFP pulled out 120 tons of rice before replacing the quantity with a consignment of better quality. Bhattarai and other officials suspect that the contaminated supplies for earthquake relief could be linked to a foodgrain racket in Jajarkot in western Nepal.

It is very likely that a cross-border chain of suppliers, distributors and handlers are behind the most recent supply of contaminated foodgrains after the earthquake.

— A senior Nepalese official on the monitoring team, as told to The Quint.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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