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Escort to plug grain leak

Calcutta, Sept. 4: The state government will directly transport food grains from Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns to ration shops to stop pilferage at a time only 11 per cent of grains reach ration shops, the food minister said.

A pilot project has been drawn up to supply food grains directly to ration shops in parts of Barrackpore in North 24-Parganas, Chandernagore and Chinsurah in Hooghly and Howrah.

The food department has decided to implement the project throughout the state by the end of this year.

Food and civil supplies minister Jyotipriya Mullick will hold a meeting with truck operators tomorrow to finalise the distribution plan.

Sources in the food department said the annual loss because of pilferage on the way to ration shops from FCI godowns was about Rs 6.5 crore.

“We have found that only 11 per cent of food grains rolling out of FCI godowns reach ration dealers. The Left Front government had permitted dealers to pick up stocks from godowns directly. The entire stock never reached the shops. Much of it was sold in the open market,” Mullick said at Writers’ Buildings today.

Food department sources said there were 1,223 ration shops in Calcutta and its adjoining areas. There are 20,184 ration shops in the districts.

“We supply rice and wheat from FCI godowns. It has been found that mostly wheat is pilfered,” Mullick said.

The minister said the pilot project would be started by the end of October. “Thereafter, we will start distributing food grains to ration dealers directly in other districts as well.”

Before the pilot project starts, the food department has decided that all ration shops across Calcutta will be supplied food grains directly from FCI godowns.

A senior food department official said one food inspector would accompany each of the 290 trucks that would ferry the grains to the ration shops in Calcutta to prevent pilfering. Another set of officials will conduct weekly checks of stocks at the shops.

“The trucks will be sealed after the bags are loaded. On reaching the shops, the inspectors will weigh the consignment before handing it over to the dealers. The trucks will reach the shops between 5pm and 11pm so that consumers do not have to wait,” the official said.

Mullick said his department would initiate a probe against those involved in pilfering.