Out of the 3.51 lakh tonne of foodgrains, 1.74 lakh tonne has been provided under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Yojana (PMGAY), while the rest under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), it said in a statement.
State-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) has supplied about 3.51 lakh tonne of foodgrains for distribution to the poor via ration shops in north eastern region during the ongoing lockdown notwithstanding the difficult hilly terrain, the food ministry said on Monday.
Out of the 3.51 lakh tonne of foodgrains, 1.74 lakh tonne has been provided under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Yojana (PMGAY), while the rest under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), it said in a statement. Under PMGAY, the Centre is giving for free 5 kg foodgrains per beneficiary and 1 kg pulses per household for three months under the Public Distribution System (PDS) in the wake of lockdown. This is over and above the quota of 5 kg per person provided to 81 crore PDS beneficiaries at a subsidised rate under the NFSA.
State-run FCI under the aegis of the Union Food Ministry has a mandate for procurement and distribution of foodgrains in the country. “Ever since the announcement of countrywide lockdown, one of the focus areas of operations for FCI has been North Eastern states. Due to its difficult terrain and limited rail access, it poses unique challenges from the logistics perspective,” the ministry said.
It has been the consistent endeavour of FCI to ensure uninterrupted supply of rice and wheat to North Eastern states considering the high dependence on PDS in the region, it said. The FCI has moved a record 158 rain loads carrying about 4.42 lakh tonnes of foodgrains during the 25 days of the lockdown period to north eastern states which is double its normal average of about 80 train loads per month.
Of which, 3.51 lakh tonnes has been distributed to north eastern region, including 1.74 lakh tonne foodgrains under the PMGKAY. About 2.16 lakh tonne has been distributed to Assam, 38,000 tonne to Meghalaya, 33,000 tonne to Tripura, 18,000 tonne to Manipur, 17,000 tonne to Arunachal Pradesh, 14,000 tonne each to Mizoram and Nagaland in the said period.
Stating that North East has unique logistics challenges in the absence of rail access in many areas, the ministry said out of total 86 depots operated by FCI in seven north eastern states, only 38 are fed through rail movement. Meghalaya is entirely road fed and only 2 depots out of 13 in Arunachal are rail fed. Manipur is supported by road movement from Dimapur rail head in Nagaland.
“Hence rail movement to states has to be supplemented by large scale road movement to ensure that food grain reaches every part of North Eastern India,” the ministry said and added that truck movement is carried out primarily from Assam.
So far during the lockdown, about 33,000 tonne foodgrains was transported to Meghalaya from Assam by road which is almost 2.5 times the normal monthly average of 14,000 tonne. Similarly, a quantity of about 11,000 tonne was moved to Arunachal Pradesh by road at almost double the normal monthly average of 7,000 tonne. A quantity of about 14,000 tonne was moved from Dimapur (Nagaland) to Manipur by road, in addition to moving 8,000 tonne stocks within Manipur to various depots from Jiribam Railhead, it said.
“These truck movements were undertaken in extremely challenging conditions,” the ministry noted. With depots having capacity as low as 500 tonne situated in far off areas including border locations like Tawang (Bhutan border), Anini (China border), Lunglei (Bangladesh border), Lawngtlai (Myanmar border) where trucks have to navigate 200-250 kms of tough hilly terrains, it has been an arduous task to ensure that every nuke and corner of the North Eastern states receive adequate quantity of food grains during the countrywide lockdown.
“FCI has been able to do it and is committed to ensure that food grain reaches every part of the country, irrespective of how inaccessible or difficult their terrains may be,” the ministry added. In addition to stocks under NFSA allocation and PMGAY, states have been provided with additional rice and wheat directly from FCI at Open Market Sale rates for meeting the requirements of people not covered under government schemes and migrant labourers.
Already Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Manipur have started lifting stocks under this scheme, the ministry said.