India Business
Apex court to hear plea against wheat import May 17
May 10, 2007 - 8:06:54 PM

New Delhi, May 10 - The Supreme Court will hear next Thursday a plea by environment activist Vandana Shiva for court direction to the Union government to stop forthwith the proposed import of one million tonnes of wheat during 2007-2008.

A three-Judge Bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan posted Shiva's application, filed Thursday, for hearing on May 17.

Mentioning Shiva's application before the bench, her counsel Pinky Anand said that the State Trading Corporation had invited tenders for import of wheat with May 21 as the closing date for tenders and May 30 as the date for the opening of the bids.

Shiva had filed a writ petition last year assailing the Union Government's wheat import policy and the court in August 2006 had issued notice to the Centre.

In the application filed Thursday, she alleged that allowing further wheat import would compromise India's food security as wheat imported last year was sub-standard.

She alleged that most of the wheat imported last year was declared unfit for human consumption and there was dilution in the safety standards for import of food grain.

The petitioner wanted multinational companies and private traders to be barred from procuring food grains directly from farmers as they tend to hoard the commodity resulting in artificial scarcity.

'The MNCs are paying higher amounts to procure wheat, hoarding it and then selling it at exorbitant prices,' she said.

Quoting newspaper reports, she said that there was no need for further imports as 53,000 tonnes of already contracted wheat was still lying unutilised at various ports.

She sought a direction to the government that instead of importing sub-standard wheat at an exorbitant price, it should pay a higher price to the farmers.

This would prevent farmers from selling wheat to multi-national firms and will ensure sufficient food grain for the government's buffer stock, she said, adding that it would also help in saving foreign exchange and increase the standard of living of farmers in the country.

'Even if the government pays higher than the market price, it saves valuable foreign exchange for the exchequer,' Shiva said. She also sought a direction to ban future trading in food grains.

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