CM breaks silence over NFSA rice issue
Dimapur, Dec. 27: Breaking his silence over the alleged siphoning of rice meant for beneficiaries under National Food Security Act, Chief Minister TR Zeliang on Tuesday said a misconception seems to have been implanted in the minds of the general public that departmental supply of rice can/should only be in jute bags.
“However, these jute bags, owing to improper handling while transportation, develop damages which lead to spillage and wastage of food grain, thereby, resulting in inaccurate/ shortfall in weight when the bags reach the targeted group. While it is a fact that rice should be packed in bags which enable aeration to the grains, considering that the repacked rice would reach the beneficiaries in a matter of days for distribution, it was considered that it would be best to repack the bags,” the CMO said in a release.
It said as declared by the Chief Minister while inaugurating the NFSA for the districts of Kohima and Dimapur on June 27, 2016 at Dimapur, it is his avowed stand that the beneficiaries under AAY and Priority Household (PHH) should get what they are supposed to get (35 kg per ration card under AAY at the rate of Rs 3 per kg and 5 kg per head at the rate of Rs 3 per kg under PHH).
Zelaing also said as per concerns raised by various North Eastern states to the Union Government at the meeting held at Guwahati on October 3 and 4, 2016, it was clarified by the Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India that the Ministry is not in a position to make up for the loss arising out of spillage and wastage during the process of transportation/storage. And since beneficiaries in the State have complained on numerous occasions that they do not get the full amount of grain as prescribed, the department, on query raised by the Chief Minister, had pointed out that it had written to the stockists on November 4, 2016, permitting them to repack the rice in durable plastic bags as requested by them to ensure that the right proportion of rice is packed and reach the beneficiaries, the CMO release said.
It informed that Nagaland has a total of 47,500 ration card holders under AAY covering a population of 2,09,657 and a total of 2,37,434 ration card holders under PHH covering a population of 11,93,928 adding a total of 14,03,579 population in Nagaland are covered under NFSA.
Stating that the Government of India allots food grains according to the number of ration card holders and not a kilogram more or less, the Chief Minister said as spillage and wastage of grains in various stages of transportation and storage process invariably takes place, it is inevitable that some shortfall at the beneficiary level occur. It must be appreciated that the Chief Minister has, on several occasions, asked the beneficiaries as well as the general public to bring it to his attention if they do not get the prescribed amount of food grain, the CMO said.
It said repackaging has been permitted for the first time on an experimental basis and the department will be asked to make changes in arrangements, if necessary, based on the feedback received. As such, the Secretary, Food & Civil Supplies, had clarified earlier that the department had allowed stockists to experiment with repackaging from jute bags to other durable bags and from 100 kg bags to 50 kg bags for convenience of loading and unloading to destinations, the release said.
“However, it is unfortunate that this department-approved repackaging has been projected in the media that the repacked rice bags were meant for the open market, which is far from the truth, and which, if proven to be true, in itself amounts to a criminal activity requiring stringent action on the part of the Government,” the CMO stated.
Considering that the whole case has been misinterpreted and misprojected in the media by depicting that corrupt activities are taking place with the assumed blessings of the government, the Chief Minister has requested the general public to first give the repackaging process a chance and see if the beneficiaries get their due share, before jumping the gun and crying foul, blaming and criticising as if one has some political axe to grind. After all, the CMO said, the good of the targeted beneficiaries is the concern of all, be it the department, the government or the NGOs or individuals.
The CMO said the Chief Minister is of the considered opinion that since NFSA is a new scheme in Nagaland, everything may not be perfect or up to everyone’s expectations. “But he is determined to make the FSA a success and therefore, welcomes suggestions from concerned individuals or groups to come forward with their valuable opinions and suggestions to achieve the target of enabling the beneficiaries get what they ought to get,” it asserted.
The CMO further said the Chief Minister is clear that stockists/ transporters/ distributors or officials should ensure that the right quality and quantity of food grain reaches the beneficiaries on time, and any compromise on the quality or quantity of food grains under NFSA shall not be tolerated or condoned. At the same time, the Chief Minister also appealed to the general public to cooperate with the department in making the programme a success.