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Ration shop to retail hub

Cosmetics, other items at discount in fair-price outlets

State food minister Jyotipriyo Mallick (extreme right) at the meeting in Siliguri on Wednesday. Picture by Passang Yolmo

Siliguri: All ration shops in the hills will double as retail outlets soon, selling around 500 products at discounted prices.

State food minister Jyotipriyo Mallick, who held a meeting at Uttarkanya here on Wednesday, made the announcement. The decision, he said, follows the agreement signed by the state with retail major Future Group during the business summit that was held in Calcutta on January this year.

After the agreement, the state has already opened retail outlets, named as "Roudra Brishti" in some locations of south Bengal.

"There are 670 ration shops in the hills from where residents collect foodgrain. Soon, these shops will also start working as retail outlets, selling an array of products including food items, cosmetics and other items of daily use. The private group will provide a commission of five per cent to the ration shop owner against each sale," said Mallick.

The move, administrative sources said, is yet another initiative by the state to help the tea garden residents, many of whom live in remote areas and have to move out to distant places to buy such items.

"Such items will be available in ration shops, which are dotted across the hills, and at discounted prices. It would largely help the tea population," said an official.

Mallick also mentioned that his department will gradually open the "Roudra Brishti" outlets in north Bengal. "We plan to open such outlets in seven other districts of the state, including Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts," said the minister.

Earlier on Wednesday, he held a meeting in Jalpaiguri. At the meeting, officials of his department were instructed to launch a fresh drive across the tea belt of north Bengal to check out whether each resident of the tea gardens has ration card in his/her name.

"We have learnt about cases where family members are staying in separate places for jobs and other purposes. In such case, ration cards should be provided to them. Further, there are non-workers in tea gardens who are not provided ration by the management. All these non-workers should be brought under the ambit of public distribution system. Our officers have been asked to conduct a survey and prepare a report within next 21 days as how many prospective beneficiaries are there in the gardens," said Mallick.

Additional reporting by our Jalpaiguri Correspondent

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