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FCI stocks foodgrain, braces for mega block

Guwahati, Sept. 2: The Food Corporation of India (FCI) today said the six-month suspension of train services (mega block) by NF Railway for the 210km Lumding-Silchar gauge-conversion work will not affect its food grain supply to Assam’s Barak valley and other states dependent on the line.

The corporation has started stockpiling foodgrain in the affected states.

It has also chalked out plans to use road transport to cope with the mega block. However, this may escalate transportation cost roughly by 40 per cent.

A senior FCI official told The Telegraph that besides two existing terminals — New Guwahati and Changsari — from where they used to supply foodgrain by road, they have recently operationalised two more terminals — Jagiroad and Bihata — for uninterrupted supply of foodgrain.

The Changsari terminal will supply foodgrain to Mizoram and Tripura and New Guwahati to Barak Valley.

The Jagiroad terminal will send supplies to Tripura, Manipur and Barak valley, and Baihata to Mizoram and Tripura.

The mega block will continue from October 1 this year till March 31 next year, within which NF Railway has decided to complete the remaining work of the conversion process (from metre gauge to broad gauge) of the Lumding-Silchar line.

The corporation uses the line to carry foodgrain to Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Barak valley. Mizoram and Tripura are heavily dependent on the line.

“We used to supply 50,000 to 64,000 tonnes of foodgrain per month by train to Barak valley, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura. Sometimes when the demand was raised to 85,000MT, we transported the additional amount by road,” said a senior official of the corporation.

The official said considering the mega block, FCI has started stockpiling foodgrain in the affected states.

“We have stocks of rice for 30 days and wheat for 49 days for Tripura, 126 days of rice and 25 days of wheat for Mizoram, 50 days of rice and 35 days of wheat for Manipur and 42 days of rice and 48 days of wheat for Barak valley,” he said.

During the mega block, the corporation will depend on National Highways 40 and 41.

“If problems like road blockades do not arise on these highways, we have nothing to be worried about. We appeal to the state governments concerned to take initiatives so that these two highways are not affected during this period,” he said.

“As part of stockpiling, we supplied 66,000MT of foodgrain by road to the affected states last month from the four terminals. This proves that we can depend on road,” the official said.

Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar today held a meeting with FCI officials on the corporation’s preparedness to cope with the situation.

There have been meetings with senior officials of other state governments on the issue.

The corporation, in July this year, successfully delivered 5,000MT of rice from Andhra Pradesh through waterways after Bangladesh allowed the use of its Ashuganj river port, 37km from Agartala, proving that the corporation can also look to the waterways during an emergency.