West Bengal Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee will launch the State Food Security Scheme on January 27 from a programme to be held at the Red Road.
Under the State Food Security Scheme, the State Government will provide five kilos of rice at Rs 2/kg to 7.1 crore people out of 10 crore people of the State. Another 70 lakh people will be able to buy rice at a price half than the market price, under this scheme. People who are below the poverty line will be eligible for this scheme.
The West Bengal Government has already been distributing rice at Rs 2 to people in Jangalmahal, Aila-affected regions of Sunderbans and workers of the tea gardens in north Bengal.
The programme on January 27 will feature bicycle rallies by those who have received cycles under Sabuj Sathi scheme.
The State Government has already undertaken the act of digitizing ration cards. After the launch of the State Food Security Scheme, 90% people of Bengal will be brought under it.
The state government on Tuesday announced soft loan to be provided to the planters of closed and sick tea gardens of North Bengal from the Rs 100 crore special corpus fund for tea industry.
The decision came after state labour minister Malay Ghatak held few rounds of meetings with the tea planters, trade union leaders and the officials of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts here at Uttar Kanya.
State food minister Jyotipriya Mullick also attended the meeting. Later, speaking to reporters, Mr Ghatak said, “The loan at low interest rate would be provided to the owners of sick and closed tea gardens to be used for the welfare of workers.”
The minister said the condition to get the loan is that the planters should use the loan only to carry out workers’ welfare activities.
He also informed that the state government is working to extend the National Food Security Act to the tea gardens by January 1, 2016. Under the act, the beneficiaries would get subsidized ration. The act was implemented in the state from September.
A group of ministers (GoM) formed by chief minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to extend a series of benefits in the areas of food, health, power and education for the employees of not only closed or abandoned tea gardens but also of the stressed ones.
The GoM has decided to allocate a Rs 100 crore Tea Garden Employees’ Welfare Fund (formed in early 2015) as corpus for the benefit of the ailing tea garden workers.
The GoM headed by finance and industries minister Dr Amit Mitra had an hourlong meeting with the officials of education, food, health, PHE and power departments on Friday to discuss the strategy and modalities.
The other members of GoM also include power minister Manish Gupta, rural development minister Subrata Mukherjee, education minister Partha Chatterjee, north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb, labour minister Moloy Ghatak and agriculture minister Purnendu Bose.
It was decided that a task force will be formed under the district magistrates of Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar to oversee the implementation of the relief measures on a day-to-day basis. The state government has set a deadline of seven days to supply power directly to the workers houses in all the 234 Dooars gardens.
Besides free power, the state is organising a free kitchen in over 30 stressed gardens in Dooars.
The Mamata Banerjee government will set up a Rs 100 crore corpus fund for the welfare of the 2.62 lakh tea plantation workers in 283 registered tea estates in Bengal.
Labour minister Moloy Ghatak tabled the West Bengal Tea Plantation Employees’ Welfare Fund Bill, 2015, which was passed in assembly on Thursday .
The minister pointed out that many tea estates not belonging to corporate houses or established tea families often violate provisions of the Plantation Labour Act, 1951, that provides for free housing, medical facilities, primary education, water supply , electricity and food grains to workers.
Smaller tea gardens deny these rights, saying they don’t have the money for it. This is why an inter-ministerial committee set up by the Centre and governments of Bengal and Assam recommended that the state share some of the statutory social security measures.
Accordingly , the government will sanction soft loans from the corpus fund to defaulting employers to help them discharge their statutory responsibilities. Children of workers will be given scholarships to study in technical institutes.The corpus may also be used to grant incentives to investors who come forward to take over sick or closed tea gardens.
Senior Trinamool MP Dr Kakoli GhoshDastidar today questioned the Centre regarding the steps the government plansto take for reopening of the closed Tea Gardens in West Bengal. She askedwhether the Tea Board, a Central Govt organization is aware that sixprivately-owned tea gardens in Bengal are closed at the moment and theplantation workers are in a pitiable condition.
The Trinamool MP informed the House thatthe State Government in Bengal is supplying aids, with both health andfinancial packages, to the plantation workers of the closed tea gardens. Sheraised the question in the House whether the Tea Board or the hon. UnionMinister of Business and Commerce have any intention to extend further supportto these plantation workers or extend any revival packages for the tea gardensin the state.
On a different motion in Lok Sabha, thenewly-elected MP for Trinamool Congress, Ms Pratima Mandal raised the questionof falling standards of services offered by the government-owned telecomcompany BSNL in comparison to private telecom companies doing business in thecountry.
Madam, Darjeeling tea is a beverage which is produced in India and enjoyed by the world, and it is grown in West Bengal. The hon. Minister has just said that our hon. Chief Minister is worried about the state of affairs and he is aware of that fact. I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether the Tea Board is aware that no less than six privately-owned tea gardens are shut down at the moment.
The plantation workers are in a pitiable condition, for which the Government of West Bengal has extended health and financial package. They have done it extensively by going to each house, made a survey and extended health package to them also. I would like to know whether the Tea Board of the Government of India is thinking of extending further support to these plantation workers and also extending any revival package for the tea gardens in the State of West Bengal.