Shortage of subsidised rice looms large in several settlements of Saipal, a remote local unit in Bajhang district of Sudurpaschim Province. The impoverished families in the remote settlements have been hit hardest by the nationwide lockdown since the subsidised rice they depend on has not reached their villages.
Although the Food Management and Trading Company Limited has its temporary sale depot in Saipal, the local population is highly dependent on contractors for the supply of subsidised rice.
“Subsidised rice has to be transported through contractors as the food office here only has a temporary depot. The contractors often delay the supply of rice in remote villages,” said Rajendra Dhami, the chairman of the local unit.
Some families allege the contractors were biased in distributing subsidised rice even when the supply chain was intact before the lockdown.
“Sacks of subsidised rice were transported to the villages before the lockdown but the contractors distributed them among their relatives,” said Sange Lama, a local of Saipal. “Some families were given 8-10 sacks of rice but I did not get even a single sack.”
Chainpur, the district headquarters of Bajhang, is the nearest market place and it takes about two days to reach there on foot. “We can’t even go to Chainpur to buy rice because of the lockdown.”
Lama said he borrowed some food from his neighbour to feed his family of seven. “Subsidised rice is not available in the village and we can’t afford to buy other food essentials at a high price. We are daily wage earners; we don’t even have work right now,” he said.
Around 400 sacks each weighing 30 kg were supplied to Ward No. 4 two weeks ago. However, the rice has not been distributed yet. There are 130 households in the ward.
Jaya Singh Rokaya, chairman of Saipal Rural Municipality Ward No.4, said the ward officials are taking necessary actions to address the locals’ concern.
“The contractors hired to supply rice to the villages kept the rice sacks and did not distribute them among the general public. Discussions are on to take necessary action against them and distribute the rice among the villagers,” he said.
According to him, the ward office had scheduled to distribute subsidised rice on April 10. The villagers had gathered outside the ward office but they were made to return empty-handed.
“The contractors said that they could not transport rice because of the lockdown. The ward chairman, security personnel and other people’s representatives were also there but they did not take any action against the contractors,” said Lama.
Rajendra Dhami, the chairman of the local unit, has said that his office will be distributing rice to the locals soon.
“There is no shortage of food in the local unit. The locals want to stock up, that’s why there is so much rush to collect rice,” he said. “The local body will distribute at least one sack of rice per family in the next couple of days.