|A godown of the Mariegold Industries Private Ltd sealed by the food and supplies department at Ghoom-Bhanjyang, 10km from Darjeeling. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Aug. 28: Bengal’s food and supplies department has sealed three godowns from where food grains used to be distributed to more than 200 ration shops in Darjeeling and Ghoom under the public distribution system.
Officials of the food and supplies department didn’t give any explanation for sealing the godowns, owned by a single distributor. But administrative sources in Siliguri said the food department’s apprehension that food grains were being diverted from the godowns by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had led to the sealing.
“It is possible that the godowns were sealed because the food department believed that supplies were going to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha which in turn distributed them among the people. That is why no one in the hills was picking up rations from special centres opened by the state government during the ongoing shutdown. We believe that by sealing the godowns, the food department is trying to cut off the supply line of the Morcha,” said a source in Siliguri.
The godowns, which belong to a single distributor, have been closed during the ongoing shutdown enforced by the Morcha. B.M. Garg, who owns the godowns, could not be contacted. Attempts to contact his family were futile.
Sources in Darjeeling said five food and supplies department officials, three from Siliguri and two from Calcutta, had gone to the godowns around 11am yesterday and sealed them. The godowns are situated at Ghoom-Bhanjyang, 11km from Darjeeling. “Two of the godowns are used to store food grains that are distributed through the PDS and the other godown is of a flour mill run by Mariegold Industries Private Ltd,” said a source.
Mariegold Industries is a family-run business of the Gargs. The godown of Mariegold Industries is believed to stock flour for the PDS. Garg is also the president of the Darjeeling Chamber of Commerce. Even though there was no public explanation for the government’s move, a senior official of the food and supplies department told The Telegraph. “The department usually conducts surprise inspections on godowns and if they find anything amiss they do seal the godown. The entire move is to ensure that food grains reach the needy on time.”
Gautam Deb, the north Bengal development minister, also echoed the official’s version in Siliguri.
“Whatever is being done by the state government is to ensure that the poor people in the hills do not suffer. Steps likes these (sealing of godowns) might have been taken to check any malpractice,” said Deb.
Distributor Garg lifts the food grains from the Food Corporation of India’s godowns in Siliguri. The responsibility of lifting the food grains from the godowns lies with the respective ration dealers, sources said. A person associated with the distribution business said: “When no vehicles are moving in the hills, how can one expect the ration dealers to lift the foodgrains from the godowns?”
The Darjeeling sources said the state government wanted to ensure that the distributor’s godowns at Ghoom-Bhanjyang were kept open, a risk any business would not like to take given the present situation in the hills, so that pressure could be mounted on the dealers to lift the foodgrains from the godowns.
Speculations are rife in the hills that the state government is also making an oblique move to crackdown on businessman who they perceive could be funding the Morcha.