The government has given its nod to convert surplus rice available with Food Corporation of India (FCI) into ethanol to make alcohol-based hand-sanitisers. The decision was taken during a meeting of National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC), chaired by Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan. Notably, the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018, allows the government to convert surplus quantities of food grains into ethanol.
The FCI has a huge stockpile of 58.49 million tonne foodgrains (as of March 10), of which 30.57 million tonne is rice alone, while the rest is wheat. This is around 128 per cent more than the required buffer stock. As per the required norm, India needs to maintain a reserve of about 21 million tonne for rice as well as wheat as on April 1.
Recently, the government had allowed sugar companies and distilleries to make hand sanitisers using ethanol. Sugar companies supply ethanol to oil marketing companies for blending with petrol. The sugar industry body ISMA also said last week a majority of sugar companies decided to make hand sanitisers to supply to hospitals and institutions by using a part of the ethanol/ENA production.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has slammed the government for not making the excess food available for a vast majority of people who can't afford it. "Aakhir Hindustan ka gareeb kab jaagega? Aap bhukhe mar rhe hain aur vo aapke hisse ke chawal se sanitiser banakar amiron ke hathon ki safai kr rhe hain (When will the poor of India wake up? You are dying of hunger and they are engaged in cleaning the hands of the rich by making sanitiser from your portion of rice), the Congress leader tweeted.
The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in a surge of local brands launching hygiene products such as hand sanitiser and hand wash. As per a recent Nielsen survey, total of 152 new hand sanitiser manufacturers entered the fray in March. The coronavirus cases in India have reached 18,000, of which 14,759 are active cases, 3,251 have been cured/discharged and 1 migrated. The country has reported 590 deaths.
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