Food dept mulling steps to open gates of closed rice mills
There are 1,285 rice mills in Bengal at present, among which 250 are closed.
Kolkata: The state Food and Supplies department is taking measures to open up the closed rice mills across the state.
"There are 1,285 rice mills in our state at present, among which 250 are closed. We are forming a three-member committee headed by Principal Secretary of the department to take steps for opening up these rice mills. The committee will hold a one-to-one meeting with all the closed rice mill owners. We will find out their individual problems and accordingly take steps to open these closed rice mills," Food and Supplies minister Jyotipriya Mallick said.
It is learnt that recently the rice mills have come under the control of the Food and Supplies department after instructions by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The rice mills were earlier controlled by the state Food Processing and Horticulture department.
The department is also taking measures to encourage setting up of rice mills across the state. "We have a proposal of offering subsidy for setting up rice mills in every block wherever there is procurement of rice. We will be dividing the state in two broad categories - tribal and non tribal areas. We will allocate subsidy of Rs 75 lakh for rice mills in tribal areas while in non tribal areas the subsidy will be Rs 50 lakh," Mallick said. The state has a total of 341 blocks among which more than 140 do not have rice mills. The subsidy for each rice mill will be around Rs 5 lakh.
Sources in the Food department said that a number of rice mills have problems related to allocation of bank loans.
In a bid to bring in transparency in the procurement process, the department has taken some measures.
"After the paddy is procured, it goes to the rice mills. Each entry at rice mill will generate three challans, one of which comes straight to the food department in Kolkata. Immediately, the fund will be transferred to the bank account of the farmer through RTGS system. The entire procurement will be monitored at multiple levels to ensure no corruption creeps in," a senior official of the department said. The department has also provided tabs to all the self help groups (SHGs) across the state through which the department procures paddy. There are around 10,000 self help groups from whom the state government procures paddy at a price.
The department has set a target of purchasing 52 lakh metric tonnes of paddy for the year 2018 and the process of purchasing paddy has started from November 1.
The price for paddy per quintal has been pegged at Rs 1,550 and the state government will provide an additional stipend of Rs 20 per quintal to encourage farmers to sell paddy directly to the government or through the cooperative societies in the state. "We are determined to ensure that there is no distress sale of paddy. The cooperative societies will purchase directly from the farmers so that the latter get the minimum support price," Mallick said.