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Stones in rice for free meal

Purulia, Aug. 21: Midday meals in schools have virtually come to a stop in Purulia after the district administration refused food grain, especially rice, supplied by the Food Corporation of India because of poor quality.

The grain quality has also affected rural development schemes as labourers are paid half in cash and half in food grain.

Eight of the 10 random samples collected from the FCI godown at Charra near the district headquarters have revealed varying degrees of decay, discolouration and impurities, making the rice “totally unfit for human consumption”, district magistrate B.P. Gopalika said today.

“I cannot distribute this rice to the labourers or students in schools and be responsible for their ill health,” he said, showing the samples he had collected. One plastic bag contained rice that had turned a peculiar red and gave off a stale smell. Another had broken pieces of rice with bits of stone.

On receiving complaints from the distributors, who collect the supplies, the district magistrate had sent a team to the FCI godown on August 8 and 14. Samples collected on both days revealed the same poor quality. “The issue was raised at the development meeting held recently at Paribesh Bhavan in Calcutta. We were told not to lift any supplies till the quality improved,” Gopalika said. The meeting was attended by all the district magistrates and the newly-elected zilla parishad chairpersons.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and chief secretary S.. Roy have been apprised of the situation.

Several development projects under the Swarna Jayanti Rozgar Yojana have come to a halt. “Under the Yojana, village panchayats take up projects like building roads, social forestry and water harvesting,” said the district magistrate.

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