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Ration card on anvil for tea workers

Jorhat, July 24: The Assam government has asked the tea gardens to collect data on permanent workers and their families in order to issue ration cards so that the gardens could supply rice and wheat to the workers at subsidised rates, by following the public distribution system model.

Under the existing system, tea estates supply ration to the staff at subsidised rates by procuring the same from the Food Corporation of India at rates fixed by the FCI.

Tea gardens procure wheat and rice at Rs 8.36 per kg and Rs 6.10 per kg respectively from FCI godowns and provide the same at 50 paise per kg to the workers.

A garden worker gets 3.2kg, half of which is rice and the other half wheat, in a week. An adult dependent and a minor dependent get 2.44kg and 1.22kg of foodgrains respectively in a week.

Tea industry sources told The Telegraph that the new move is aimed at streamlining the system of providing ration to the garden staff by maintaining proper records with the help of a ration card-cum-family identity card.

A source in the food and civil supplies department said the state government has sought the data on tea garden staff in order to digitise the data according to the directive of the Centre, which has been done following an order passed by the Supreme Court recently.

The apex court had passed the order to digitise all records on PDS beneficiaries in the country to check malpractices.

The source said according to the directive of the Centre, the gardens will have to maintain proper records of distribution while providing the labourers with ration according to the guidelines for targeted public distribution issued by the Centre.

A recent directive issued by the state government, through the food and civil supplies department to the tea estates, has asked the management of the tea estates to provide all necessary details of the workers and their families in a form prepared by the department. They have to submit it to the government after certifying that the data is true.

Sources said the form seeks information on the head of the family along with other family members, photographs of each member, phone numbers (if any), date of birth along with birth certificates, permanent address, present address, whether in possession of job card, bank account and availability of LPG connection.

Information like under which constituency the worker and the family fall is also being sought in the form.

Sources said once the ration cards are issued, the gardens would distribute the ration every week. Necessary information will be entered in the ration card and will carry signatures or thumb impressions of the staff. The civil supplies department will then check the ration cards.

Tea Association of India (Assam branch) secretary J.N. Baruah said the initiative was a positive one as the process is expected to become more streamlined.

Baruah said the industry would request the government to provide more time to complete the exercise, as it was a lengthy one. The government has asked the gardens to submit the data by July 31.