The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public distribution announced on October 1, 2010 its initiative to increase supply of food grains and storage facilities in the Northeast region of the country. The step comes as a big relief and is much desired for many Northeastern states like Manipur, which are facing the food shortage problem that triggers price hike and dependency on neighbouring countries like Myanmar.
The Ministry informed that the Government has taken major initiatives to ensure continuous, regular and adequate supply of food grains to all the states in the Northeast in view of the remoteness, inaccessibility, difficult terrain and special requirements of the region. Currently, under the open market sales scheme for sales by state government to retail consumers, a total of 3.38 LMT is allocated out of which 1.08 lakh tonne has been lifted by state governments.
The Ministry has now extended this up to 31/03/2011 so that states may be able to take full advantage. According to the Ministry, a total of more than 9 lakh tonnes of food grain has been allotted to Northeast region in the last few months.
Beside food shortage, a major problem the region is facing is with regard to transportation issues. Due to the rough and challenging terrain in most parts of the northeastern states, food supply does not reach on time. Additionally, some regions face road blockage problems owing to the political instability and social unrest prevailing in the states.
Taking a big step towards addressing the accessibility issue, the Government has opened an independent Regional Office for Arunachal Pradesh at Itanagar under which four district offices would work. 197 additional staffs will be posted soon to run this office. Steps will be taken in all the states to address transportation problems requiring each state to give full coordination and work out different solutions depending on their respective needs and geographical features.
The Ministry has also addressed the issue of inadequate storage facility which creates problems in ensuring regular supplies to the Public Distribution System (PDS) from time to time. The present storage capacity of FCI in NE States is 4.58 lakh tonne which is inadequate. Currently, the Government is constructing godowns in NE states under plan funds.
Considering the specific difficulties of NE Region, the Department has made a proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs for the construction of godowns totaling 5.25 lakh tonnes and at an estimated cost of Rs. 568 crores. This will help in augmentation of storage capacity of food grains.
The State Government has been asked to come forward and identify suitable land in all the selected locations so that the moment the scheme is approved by the Government of India, construction can begun immediately. Paving way for regional entrepreneurs, the Central Government has made the construction of godowns a public-private partnership undertaking. The step will go a long way in boosting private and regional entrepreneurship in the Northeast states.