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Flood relief poser on food supply

The onset of monsoon and the possibility of flood have once again brought into perspective the differences between the disaster management and industries departments.

Officials said the 2005 flood relief scam had cut the communication channel between the two departments and restricted the variety of ready-to-cook food items for flood victims.

On Friday, a disaster management department official said instructions had been issued to district magistrates of 14 highly flood-prone districts and 19 medium flood-prone districts to be ready about every aspect, including distribution of sattu (roasted gram flour), gurh (jaggery) and chura (beaten rice), in case of flood.

The disaster department has refrained from contacting the industries department regarding developing and distributing other food items in times of natural calamity.

“We are open to discussion with the industries department but it must make the first move. Prior to the 2005 flood relief scam, the two departments used to be in touch and plan different aspects of flood relief. We know that the relief provided to flood victims can be increased and improved if the departments sit together. But the mistrust factor remains,” said a senior disaster department official.

Bihar Chamber of Commerce and Industries president P.K. Agarwal said there were definitely other options. “In Bihar, sattu and chura are both popular in urban and rural areas during flood.

However, the food processing sector in the state has improved considerably. Apart from sattu and chura, many kinds of biscuits, makhana, bhujia, fruit drinks and maize-related ready-to-eat food are manufactured. The industrialists can surely help if the departments want. A cost factor is involved but the state government can take care of that,” said Agarwal.

Arun Kumar Singh, the director of food processing sector of industries department, said: “Food processing sector is the most thriving in terms of industrialisation. If the disaster management department is interested, we are always ready to help. We can get in touch with industrialists in the sector and arrange to supply new food items to flood victims. Just like chura or sattu, the other items will be helping them. The sector has many people who manufacture very good quality chura and sattu too. But then there has to be proper and concrete discussions. And things have drastically changed since what was early.”