Bengal govt to kick-start Duare Ration from Wednesday
The Bengal government is set to kick-start Duare Ration (ration on doorsteps) project as a pilot initiative involving 3,000 ration dealers for two months from Wednesday to experience the impact on the ground before it is implemented across the state after Durga Puja.
The Duare Ration scheme, a brainchild of Mamata Banerjee, was promised by the chief minister during the Assembly poll campaign this year. She promised the implementation of the scheme if she came to power for a third time.
Sources in the food and supply department said all districts had been asked to involve 15 per cent of their existing ration dealers in the programme from Wednesday and submit a detailed report on the drive every day.
“There are around 20,800 ration dealers in Bengal and over 3,000 of them would start the drive from Wednesday. It is a pilot project and we will observe the impact on the ground during September and October. Later, we will implement it for all dealers to reach 10.33 crore beneficiaries across the state,” state food and supply minister Rathin Ghosh said on Tuesday.
According to the plan, the government asked all ration dealers to divide their total beneficiaries into 16 clusters and during the initial drive, they would reach out to their beneficiaries in the cluster concerned once in a month to deliver foodgrains at their door.
“The dealers will carry POS machine and weigh machine along with foodgrains on a vehicle and deliver the items on the doorsteps,” said the minister.
Sources said the rationing system got a boost after the Mamata Banerjee government introduced “Khadya Sathi” scheme to provide free rations to all in 2016.
There are 10.33 crore people having ration cards across Bengal and they collect their deserved quantity of foodgrains under various categories from 20,800 ration shops. Earlier, the people had to visit the ration shops — many of which are a few kilometers away from their home in remote areas.
“In remote areas like those in the Jungle Mahal and in north Bengal, people had to travel 6-10km to reach their ration shops and had problem commuting,” said an official.
Officials in the food and supply department said foodgrains like rice, wheat, sugar, flour and kerosene were being distributed to the beneficiaries according to the allotments under various categories. But in the trial run, kerosene will not be distributed and people have to collect it from ration shops.
“According to the instruction, every dealer will reach their clusters four days a week from Wednesday and they would keep their shop open full on Saturday and half on Sunday. People can also avail themselves of the old system,” said a senior official.
The sources said the Bengal government was also facing a few challenges to implement the programme state-wide as a large number of ration dealers were not willing to join the scheme and demanded benefits like hike in commission and transport fees.
Biswambhar Basu, national general secretary of All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation, said he had written to the chief minister on Tuesday informing her that it would be impossible for dealers to implement the Duare Ration project if their demands were not considered.
The dealers demanded that they be given commission of Rs 200 per one quintal foodgrains and another Rs 40 per quintal for packaging, which is quite high compared to what they get these days — Rs 75 a quintal.
The amount demanded by the dealers, sources said, had been considered to be quite high as it could cost the state exchequer nearly Rs 3,000 crore every year.
The sources said three ration dealers had already moved Calcutta High Court seeking its intervention to stop such a drive.