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Workers insecure over 'food security'

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  26 July 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Dispur plans to roll out food security scheme in tea gardens from October

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, July 25: It is supposed to be a food security scheme. But the tiol Food Security Act (NFSA), if implemented in the tea gardens, is poised to foster food insecurity among the workers, if one goes by the figures.

The tea industry is bemused at the State government's plans to roll out the Food Security scheme in the gardens from October next. Industry sources said that Dispur has communicated to tea garden magements that it will stop the monthly allotment of subsidised rice and wheat through Food Corporation of India (FCI) to tea gardens from October, and implement the food security scheme.

Under the existing system that dates back to the pre-Independence period, the tea garden magements procure subsidised wheat and rice from FCI and then distribute the same amongst the garden labourers at 50-55 paise per kg. Each labourer family of four is entitled to receive 32.56 kg of rice or wheat every month. In total, the FCI supplies 12,590 tonnes of foodgrains to the tea garden owners for further distribution every month. Around 19.30 lakh tea garden labourers and their dependants benefit from the existing system.

Now if the present system is replaced by the food security scheme, a family of four will be entitled to only 20 kg of rice (or wheat) every month and that too at the rate of Rs 3 per kg.

"In case a worker needs additiol foodgrain, he will have to buy it from the open market. Also, there is a provision in the scheme that in the event of any shortage of foodgrain, the worker may be given the cash component - Rs 15. Now, from where can a worker get the commodities at Rs 15," said a tea planter.

Either ways, it appears that the workers will stand to lose.

Earlier, the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangh (ACMS), a body representing the tea garden labourers, had moved the High Court against the government's decision to stop the subsidized ration supply. The court is yet to deliver its verdict.

Also, Clause 1 and 2 of Section 2 of tiol Food Security Act states that wherever there exists a better system, NFSA will not be implemented in those places.

Sources said that the food security scheme will also give scope for blackmarketing as the system of distribution - a replica of the PDS system - would not be as streamlined as it is now.

The tea industry currently procures around 7,500 metric tonnes of rice and 5,000 metric tonnes of wheat from the FCI at Rs. 830 and Rs. 610 per quintal respectively. The prevalent market prices of rice and wheat are around Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 1,700 respectively.

Existing system Food security scheme
Entitlement (for four-member family)
32.56 kg a month 20 kg a month
Price for beneficiary
55 paise/ kg Rs 3/ kg
Both rice and flour supplied Either rice or wheat will be supplied
Fixed quantity assured If stocks uvailable, workers may get cash component

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