Food grains stocked at the Sukhiapokhri police station in Darjeeling on Wednesday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Aug. 14: Few people risked stepping out of their homes on the second day of the “janata curfew” to buy subsidised rice and flour being distributed by the state government in the hills from today.
The district administration had arranged for the food distribution from 11 centres — Garidhura, Dudhia, Rohini, Latpancha, Mirik, Sorini, Panighata, Pedong, Gorubathan, Sukhiapokhri and Bijanbari — across Kalimpong, Kurseong and Darjeeling. The centres were either in police outposts or panchayat and block offices.
At Garidhura in Kurseong subdivision, about 100 people lined up in front of a police outpost to collect rice and flour, but in most of the other points of distribution, there were no takers till late afternoon. Garidhura is closer to the plains than to Kurseong town.
Puneet Yadav, the Darjeeling district magistrate, however, said over 500 people had taken the rice and wheat flour by 3pm.
But at least 50 residents in and around Sukhiapokhri and Bijanbari that The Telegraph spoke to in Darjeeling said they were “not interested” in the subsidised supplies.
“The janata curfew is still on, so we are not going out anyway. Moreover, everything will open tomorrow for at least four days,” said Dipesh Pradhan, a 34-year-old resident of Sonada, Darjeeling. “Had the supply been free, some would have thought about it, perhaps.”
Till 1pm, the staff in most of the distribution centres at Sukhiapokhri and Bijanbari sat idle with sacks full of grain and flour. Though the staff said “some” people had visited the centres since the morning, the full sacks told a different story.
“There were some people, but we don’t have their details,” was the response from a staff member of one of the centres.
The state government also ran buses to Darjeeling for the second consecutive day. According to an official estimate, nine NBSTC buses were sent to the three hill subdivisions from Siliguri with a handful of passengers.
But it is unclear if people boarded any of the buses on the way. One of the buses seen entering Darjeeling was empty.
Ministers Gautam Deb and Jyotiproya Mullick boarded a bus going to Darjeeling. But both Deb, the north Bengal development minister, and Mullick, the food minister, disembarked well before the bus made it to the hills.
Deb later said: “Arrangements have been also made to run 200 light vehicles on different routes across the three hill sub-divisions.”
But representatives of light-vehicle owners said unless they “see light vehicles coming down from the hills and reaching Siliguri without any problem”, they would not risk sending their trekkers to the hills.