NEW DELHI, April 20 - In tune with its priority, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has moved 158 train-loads carrying about 4,42,000 MT of foodgrains, including 22,000 MT wheat and 4,20,000 MT rice, to the northeastern states during the 25 days of countrywide lockdown, official sources here said.
This is double its normal average of about 80 train-loads per month. Out of total 86 depots operated by the FCI in seven northeastern states, only 38 are fed through rail movement. Meghalaya is entirely road-fed and only two depots out of 13 in Arunachal Pradesh are rail-fed. Manipur is supported by road movement from the Dimapur railhead in Nagaland. Hence, the rail movement to the states has to be supplemented by large scale road movement to ensure that foodgrains reach every part of Northeast India, sources added.
The truck movement is carried out primarily from Assam. During 25 days of lockdown, a quantity of about 33,000 MT of foodgrains was transported to Meghalaya from Assam by road which is almost 2.5 times the normal monthly average of 14,000 MT. Similarly, a quantity of about 11,000 MT of foodgrains was moved to Arunachal Pradesh by road at almost double the normal monthly average of 7,000 MT.
A quantity of about 14,000 MT of foodgrains was moved from Dimapur to Manipur by road, in addition to moving 8,000 MT stock within Manipur to various depots from the Jiribam railhead. These truck movements were undertaken in extremely challenging conditions.
Owing to difficult terrains of the area, most of the warehouses are of small sizes except for few depots in Assam. Due to this, regular movement becomes essential to maintain continuous supply for PDS operations. In addition to the challenges regularly faced in truck movement to various states of the Northeast, the FCI had to grapple with the restrictions imposed in state borders and various routes due to the countrywide lockdown.
However, continuous supply of foodgrains could be ensured for all northeastern states against all odds and a quantity of 3,51,000 MT of foodgrains have been distributed to respective state governments in the lockdown period, including 1,74,000 MT of foodgrains under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY).
In addition to the stocks, the states have been provided with additional rice and wheat directly from the FCI at open market sale rates for meeting the requirements of people not covered under government schemes and the migrant labourers. Already Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Manipur have started lifting stocks under this scheme.
With depots having a capacity of as low as 500 MT situated in far off areas, including border locations like Tawang (Bhutan border), Anini (China border), Lunglei (Bangladesh border), Lawngtlai (Myanmar border) where trucks have to navigate 200-250 km of tough hilly terrains, it is an arduous task to ensure that every nook and cranny of the northeastern states receive adequate quantity of foodgrains during the lockdown.