India asks B'desh to allow 35,000 tons PDS grains to NE via sea

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India has asked Bangladesh to permit a shipment of 35,000 tonnes of PDS foodgrains every month via sea route in view of difficulty to be faced from October with the start of gauge conversion work in North East.

"During a recent visit to Bangladesh, we requested it to allow transportation of 35,000 tonnes of PDS foodgrains every month via sea route to the north eastern states," a senior Food Ministry official said.

A trial run to see the practicality of shipping has already been undertaken. The first shipment of 5,000 tonnes of rice has already reached Agartala from Visakhapattanam, Andhra Pradesh via Ashuganj port in Bangladesh, the official said, adding that another vessel of 5,000 tonnes will be followed.

From October 1, there will megablock of railways at Lumding in Assam for gauge conversion work affecting foodgrains movement. The shipment of foodgrains via Bangladesh would help ease burden of transporting via roadways.

The government supplies monthly about one lakh tonnes of PDS foodgrains to the north eastern states -- Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Assam. Of which, 60 per cent is transported via railways and the rest through roadways.

The official said that efforts are being made to transport more grains via roadways but not much load can be pushed due to poor condition of highways in the region.

Road movement has started from new rail terminals at Baihata and Jagi road in Assam. Foodgrains to Manipur are being supplied from Furkating Railhead in Assam, he added.

Last week, Mizoram Food Minister John Rotluangliana had met Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and requested him to ensure smooth supply of PDS foodgrains from October onwards.

As per official data, the state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) has stocked 4.03 lakh tonnes of grains as on August 4, against the storage space of 4.7 lakh tonnes.

Noting that the Centre has asked north eastern states to identify additional storage space and take direct delivery from FCI to build up extra stocks with them, the official said that "however except for Tripura, no state has come forward."

The government supplies rice and wheat at subsidised rates via public distribution system (PDS) to the poor.

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