GUWAHATI, Dec 3 – The Assam government today said that the Centre has decided to stop supply of subsidised foodgrains for tea garden workers through FCI and came out strongly against the Union government’s decision.Pradyut Bordoloi, Minister of Commerce and Industry and State government spokesperson, told reporters here that since Independence owners of the tea gardens have been providing subsidised rations to tea estate workers first under the Essential Supplies (Temporary Powers) Act 1946 and then under the Essential Commodities Act 1955.
“All these years, it has been going on unhindered. Now suddenly the NDA government at the Centre has informed us that from January it will not supply grains for this through FCI. This is a major cause of concern for us,” he said.
Bordoloi said the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution sent a letter in this regard to the State some time back.
“We have strongly protested to the Centre. It is unacceptable to deprive our tea garden workers,” he added.
Asked if it would mean scrapping of the system, he said, “If FCI does not supply the grains it will be just like scrapping it.”
Bordoloi said this has come about even as the Central government has prevented Assam from implementing the National Food Security Act due to lack of computerisation of the rolls.
“We completed compiling the list of beneficiaries in June under the Act and it covers 85 per cent of the State’s population. But the Centre has not allowed its implementation. They are talking of progressive digitisation. Our argument is that it will take time to computerise details of the 2.52 crore beneficiaries. They are not allowing us to implement the National Food Security Act and are now even stopping us from supplying subsidised rations to the workers,” he said.
He said the Centre has cited difficulty in supplying the ration via FCI and asked the State to collect grain for the garden owners by other means instead.