It’s a mess of epic proportions and complex nature—a maze of contradictions. The COVID-19 lockdown—national, and even global in its sheer sweep—has brought a screaming shortage of essentials across the country. At the same time, paradoxically, India has more than enough food to feed her citizens. In the darkest of ironies, the buffer stock of food grain—i.e. the stock in storage—is three times the mandatory requirement. On top of that, there are indications of a bumper crop this season. So the food is there. But herein comes the real knot in the puzzle. How does one get the tiger, the goat and the bundle of grass across the river? It’s a logistical dead-end that governments, both at the Centre and the states, are staring at. They seem simply unable to move the food to where it is required—everyone’s plates.
It’s like blood circulation stopping suddenly in an already suffering body. Truckers are unable to operate freely. They cannot find workers to offload food items, nor do they have the goods to carry for the return journey. Not to speak of being harassed at inter- and intra-state checkposts. The upshot: farmers are unable to sell their produce. And central warehouses have become islands of isolation. Only one in seven major mandis, or wholesale markets, is open across India—so retail supplies in towns, cities, even villages, stand drastically disrupted. It’s not a production calamity, but a distribution nightmare on a national scale.