Toxic Relief-II: The Supplies Scandal Rot Runs Deep in Nepal
Perishing food items from India have found their way to Nepal. The Quint investigates the Supplies Scandal
Not just the supplies of large quantities of toxic rice and vegetable cooking oil, Nepalese authorities have discovered that hundreds of kilograms of packed food items sent from India to the earthquake devastated country were found to have gone past their dates of expiry.
The extent of the supplies scandal prompted a contested debate in the Nepalese Parliament. Consequently, a parliamentary committee was formed on May 28 to probe how contaminated foodgrain and cooking oil originating in India found their way in Nepal following the April 25 earthquake. Nepalese officials now suspect a cross-border racket in the supply and distribution of foodgrain.
The Quint reported exclusively on May 27 that huge quantities of inedible rice and toxic cooking oil from India were despatched to Nepal in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.
Speaking to the Quint over phone an official of Nepal’s Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (NDFTQC) said routine examination of various food items ranging from cornflakes, parathas, noodles and sandwiches to cookies and biscuits among other snacks revealed that their ‘use by date’ was long over.
“We found mould on a batch of parathas and immediately took steps to segregate it from other packages before destroying it,” Purna Chandra Wasti, spokesman for the NDFTQC said, adding that “there was no thorough quality checks on the food items that poured in from all across the world in the initial days after the earthquake.”
It was only when the Nepalese authorities could get their act together that the NDFTQC could subject the food supplies to stringent quality checks. “We discovered that the date of expiry for a huge consignment of noodles from India had expired as far back as February,” Wasti added.
Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, Shankar Subedi, a secretary in the Nepalese Prime Minister’s Office, admitted that a report had been sent to Narendra Modi’s PMO, bringing to the notice of Indian authorities the need for an in-depth probe to find out how supplies of inedible rice and toxic cooking oil were sent to Nepal in the name of relief.
While Subedi was reluctant to disclose more, other Nepalese officials monitoring relief and food distribution programmes said that the multi-agency probe which began a couple of days ago has concentrated its investigation in 14 highly affected districts.
Speaking to The Quint, Nepal National Human Rights Commission Secretary Ved Bhattarai said the matter is “serious and alarming because we are now getting reports that besides Kathmandu, contaminated food grain reached three districts – Chitwan, Nuakot and Dolakha – in the zone where the earthquake devastation was the worst.
“The question uppermost in our minds now is why did the United Nations’ World Food Programme which is involved in the distribution of relief and food material among the quake’s survivors did not use their logo on packages containing emergency supplies,” Bhattarai said. But he said it was too early to say that WFP officials or workers might be involved in the “distribution racket.”
Read our earlier report: Toxic Relief: India Supplies Foul Cooking Oil, Rice to Nepal
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