New Delhi: Ever since the announcement of countrywide lockdown on 24.03.2020, one of the focus areas of operations for Food Corporation of India (FCI) has been North Eastern states. Due to its difficult terrain and limited rail access, it poses unique challenges from the logistics perspective. It has been the consistent endeavour of FCI to ensure uninterrupted supply of rice and wheat to North Eastern states considering the high dependence on Public Distribution System (PDS) in the region.
In tune with this priority, FCI moved 158 train loads carrying about 4,42,000 Metric Tonnes food grains (22,000 MT Wheat and 4,20,000 MT rice) during the 25 days of countrywide lockdown to North Eastern states at double its normal average of about 80 Train loads per month. However North East has very unique logistical challenges as not all areas are having rail access. Out of total 86 depots operated by FCI in 7 North Eastern States, only 38 are fed through rail movement. Meghalaya is entirely road fed and only 2 depots out of 13 in Arunachal are rail fed. Manipur is supported by road movement from Dimapur rail head in Nagaland. Hence rail movement to states has to be supplemented by large scale road movement to ensure that food grain reaches every part of North Eastern India.
Truck movement is carried out primarily from Assam. During 25 days of lockdown, a quantity about 33,000 MT food grains 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 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 was moved from Dimapur (Nagaland) to Manipur by road, in addition to moving 8,000 MT stocks within Manipur to various depots from Jiribam Railhead. These truck movements were undertaken in extremely challenging conditions.
Owing to the difficult terrain 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 NE, FCI had to grapple with the restrictions imposed in state borders and various routes due to countrywide lockdown.
However, continuous supply of food grains could be ensured for all states of North East against all odds and a quantity of 3,51,000 MT food grains have been distributed to respective state governments in 25 days of lockdown, including 1,74,000 MT under PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY). State wise break up is as below:
Assam: 2,16,000 MT
Arunachal Pradesh: 17,000 MT
Meghalaya: 38,000 MT
Manipur: 18,000 MT
Mizoram: 14,000 MT
Nagaland: 14,000 MT
Tripura: 33,000 MT
In addition to stocks under NFSA allocation and PMGKAY, states have been provided with additional rice and wheat directly from FCI at Open Market Sale rates for meeting the requirements of people not covered under government schemes and migrant labourers. Already Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Manipur have started lifting stocks under this scheme.
With depots having capacity 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 KMs of tough hilly terrains, it is an arduous task to ensure that every nuke and corner of the North Eastern states receive adequate quantity of food grains during the countrywide lockdown. FCI has been able to do it and is committed to ensure that food grain reaches every part of the country, irrespective of how inaccessible or difficult their terrains may be.