Jhilimili/Kolkata, March 20 (IANS) Lashing out at the central government for stopping allocation of additional food grain in backward areas and some targeted groups at cheap rates in the coming fiscal, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday said her government would continue the schemes from its own resources.
“We used to get additional funds for distribution of food grain among tribals of Junglemahal areas (districts of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore), Sundarbans hit by cyclone Aila (in 2009), Darjeeling hills, for workers of closed tea gardens in north Bengal, as also among the unwilling farmers of Singur (from whom land was allegedly taken by force by the previous Left Front government),” Banerjee told a public meeting in Jhilimili in Bankura district.
The state government was providing rice at Rs.2 per kg to these groups from the additional food grain quota.
“Now they are saying they won’t give the additional quota for 2013-14. Why? Do they want the poor to go hungry?”
“They are crossing all limits. Why are they behaving like this? They are raising such huge amounts by hiking prices of petrol and diesel. They take Rs.40,000 crore as tax from my state, but give only Rs.18,000 crore,” Banerjee said.
Banerjee said she instructed her administration to keep the project going by making savings in other areas.
“If need be, we will beg. But we won’t fall at their (centre’s) feet. I will give the rice to people. But for this I need over Rs.550 crore annually. I have asked my administration to make the necessary provisions by going for savings wherever they can.”
In Kolkata, Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriya Mullick told reporters in the state assembly that Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday seeking an additional quota of 4.03 lakh tonnes of rice and 3.23 lakh tonnes of wheat for 2013-14 fiscal.
Mullick denied that the state government had failed to utilise the additional food grain allocated for 2012-13.
“On the contrary, we have utilised 77 percent of the allotment in rice and 83 percent of that in wheat.”
He said the state government was providing subsidised food grain to all tribals in 24 blocks of Junglemahal by treating them as people below the poverty line. Altogether 19,70,789 people have benefited in the region from the scheme.
Besides, 95,923 workers of closed tea gardens and people from backward communities such as Toto, Bihor, Sabar and Lodha are also getting subsidised food grain from the additional allocations.