IMPHAL, February 15: The regional FCI office will be made fully functional and the General Manager of FCI has been directed to act in this regard, announced Union Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan while laying the foundation stone for the construction of food storage depots of Bishnupur and Sawongbung.
`I have a great affection for the North East` stated Ram Vilas Paswan while describing his origin in a poor Dalit family.
He said that though he will appeal to the concerned authorities for maximum recruitment of the locals, the regional office will also have staffs from around the country.
He appealed the State CM for providing safety to staffs from other parts of the country. The Union Minster expressed that the conversion of the railway link to a broad gauge will be completed for the transportation of food grains.
He lamented that the work progress may hinder due to the Nagaland bandh from February 17, mentioning that once the Lamding- Silchar broad gauge is ready, sufficient food grains will be made available in the State. Talking about the complaints of truckers on their staying idle as tenders are held at Assam, he assured that once the regional office starts running in full swing then tenders will be held at Manipur.
He also said that he will instruct the FCI officials to consider hiring local transporters.
He further expressed that 90 percent of food grains would have to be acquired by the State government with the remaining 10 percent supplied by the Central government and all the latter has to do was to make sure that food grains reach the targeted destinations.
He said that the State government is concerned about the locations of fair price shops and its pricings. He said that at present the existing state FCI depots have stocks for three months only, mentioning that the requirement for food grains of India is 580 lakh tons, out of which 450 lakh tons of food grains are transported through the railways.
He added that FCI depots in India have capacity of 750 lakh tonnes while depots located at North East India have the capacity to store 5.02 lakh tonnes. He asserted that the construction of FCI depots for the capacity of three lakh tons has been instructed at the cost of around Rs 500 crore.
He stated that FCI depots located at Manipur have capacity of 33423 tonneswith another 57000 tons of food grains still being needed.
He said the Government has planned to construct depots at eight places in the State which are Jiribam, Senapati, Thoubal, Churachandpur, Bishnupur, Imphal East, Chandel and Tamenglong and added that if these depots are constructed then the state will have extra food grains of 27500 tonnes.
Regarding the implementation of National Food Security Act, he mentioned that the Act was implemented in the country on July 4, and after a year only 11 states have effectively implemented the Act. He said by May 31, NFSA will be effectively implemented in the State; and for the same, 88 percent of the rural and 85 percent of the urban population have been identified as beneficiaries.
He said once NFSA is implemented, there will be no BPL and APL category within citizens but only the Antyodaya Anna Yojna will remain.
Appreciating the culture of Manipur that he witnessed during his stay in the State, he said he would visit the State in the future but whenever he visits, he would like to visit with a purpose.
Speaking as the chief guest, the State Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh said he is not new to the State and understand the sentiments and problems regarding mainly the transportation of food grains in the State.
He said after repeated requests from the State government and after great difficulties, the regional FCI office came into being after many years on January 14, 2014. He added that the said depot and office is not fully functional and not allotted autonomy. The State government cannot intervene into the activities of the regional office as it is a GOI branch office at Imphal.
He said the State was eagerly awaiting the implementation of NFSA without delay, adding people below the poverty line were more concerned about the Act.
He said the State government is acquiring rice at seven rupees per Kg and selling at three rupees per Kg to the BPL families. The Government will suffer a huge lose and difficulty, he added while also stating that handling the fair price shops will cost a huge amount of money and the State has no resources was going through a financial crunch. The State Chief Minister further stated that if the fund is released for the land acquisition for the purpose of FCI depots at Tamenglong and Chandel districts then the process will soon be completed.
He said Tamenglong is one remote district and sometimes food grains are transported through helicopter during raining season which cost a lot of money.
The Chief Minister appealed the Union Minister to make the regional depot fully functional at the earliest and to release the funds for the land acquisition at Tamenglong.
The two foundation stones for the construction of food storage depots of Bishnupur and Sawongbung were unveiled by the Union CAF & PD Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. The CAF & PD and Education minister M Okendro was also present as the guest of honour at the function.
The function was held at the Regional Office of FCI in the old Assembly complex, Imphal, organised by the Food Corporation of India.