State food minister Jyotipriyo Mallick (third from left) at the meeting in Jalpaiguri on Wednesday. Picture by Biplab Basak
Jalpaiguri, Sept. 13: State food minister Jyotipriyo Mallick today said the food department had decided to sell 30,000 metric tons of rice to the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
The minister also informed that the state food and supplies department would soon resume the public distribution system (PDS) - sale of food grain through ration shops among beneficiaries - in the hills.
At a meeting here, Mallick said: "Because of the violence in the hills, there had been a halt in the supply of food grain and around 51,000 metric tons of rice are lying unsold at the godown of the department at Dabgram, located on the outskirts of Siliguri. We have decided to sell around 30,000 metric tons of rice to the FCI."
"An official from the FCI will arrive from Calcutta tomorrow to monitor the entire process," Mallick added.
Yesterday, at the second rounds of bipartite talks held in Uttarkanya on the current impasse in hills, the hill parties had urged the chief minister to resume the PDS.
"We want the public distribution system to function during the shutdown but those who have called the strike did not allow the ration shops to open. Also, truck drivers who ferry the goods denied ascending to the hills after violence and ransacking of vehicles were reported. They were apprehensive of similar attacks," a senior official of the state food and supplies department said.
Mallick, while speaking to newspersons, said: "Every month, around 9,500 metric tons of rice and around 4,000 metric tons of flour are required to distribute through ration shops among the beneficiaries of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts. But ration shops in hills are close since the indefinite strike began in June. But after yesterday's meeting, situation is getting normal in the hills."
In the hills, around 8.75 lakh people are provided with food grain from ration shops, Mallick said.
"Each of those who have ration cards will get six kilos of rice and five kilos of flour a month," he added.
When asked by when the department would be able to send food grains to the hills, the minister said: "Once the situation turns normal, it would take only two days for us (the department) to send the required quantities of food grains to the hills."
Tomorrow, the food minister will hold a meeting at Uttarkanya, in the presence of state tourism minister Gautam Deb and officials of the district administration, police and his department where discussions would be held on introducing the public distribution system in the hills.
At today's meeting, held at the district magistrate's office here, administrative officials of Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar districts were present.