Mullick gives a rice packet to a woman at Totopara in Jalpaiguri on Monday. Telegraph picture
Oct. 15: Ration agents, not the tea garden management, will distribute grains and other essentials in the estates, food minister Jyotipriya Mullick said today.
He said: “In the case of a closure or a lockout, the workers in the garden are deprived of rations as the management distributes it. We will revoke the earlier decision and depute independent ration dealers in the tea gardens.”
Mullick said he would try to bring in ration agents by November. The move is expected to benefit nearly 3 lakh workers across over 200 tea gardens.
The minister also said that the government would like to stop a free-ration scheme that was started during earlier Left rule when 22 gardens in north Bengal were shut and 91,998 workers were left without jobs.
“During the erstwhile Left Front rule, 22 gardens were close and the state was providing free rations to 91,998 workers by expending Rs 120 crore a year,” he said.
“However, only six gardens are closed now and there is no justification in providing free rations to so many workers.”
He said that in the six closed gardens, “we have thus decided to extend facilities to workers of closed gardens under the Antodaya scheme or free scheme for BPL category people”. The others would have to buy essentials from the ration agents.
Mullick, who was at an event organised ahead of World Food Day tomorrow, also said that HIV positive persons, leprosy patients and sex workers across Bengal would get rice at the rate of Rs 2 a kg.
Mullick said: “The enrolment process has started to include such people in the BPL category. The enlistment has already been done in the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar, and gradually it would be done in all other districts of the state. We will provide them rice at the subsidised rate of Rs 2 a kg.”
The members of the Toto community — a primitive tribe which dwells in Birpara block of Jalpaiguri district — will get 2kg of rice per family per week free of cost from the state government.
Along with them, rice would be similarly provided free among people of Sabar, Lodha and Birhore communities dwelling in south Bengal districts.”
According to Mullick, 350 HIV positive people each are there in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar and 44 in Darjeeling have been identified and included in the BPL category.
“We have also enlisted 39, 15 and 34 leprosy patients from the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar. In Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar, 115 and 48 sex workers have been enrolled respectively. Enlistment of sex workers in Darjeeling district is in progress,” the minister said.
According to state food department sources, there are 1,391 Totos in Jalpaiguri, who will get free rice from the government.
“Under the same scheme, 60,135 people from Lodha community, 1596 Sabars and 333 Birhores will be provided free rice,” a source said.
Mullick, who also attended a function of government purchase of paddy from farmers at Dhupguri, said the state government, from October 18 and for next three days, will distribute groceries through ration shops at subsidised rates for cardholders.
“We will distribute mustard oil at Rs 20 less per kilo than the market rate and maida at Rs 3.50 less per kilo than the market rate. Also, each cardholder would be entitled to get 200 grams of sugar at the existing ration distribution rate,” he said.