Subsidised salt remains unsold in northern GorkhaThe residents of Samagaun and Chhekampar have to walk for two days to reach the food depots in Philim or Salleri to buy salt.
As many as 360 quintals of iodised salt meant for the residents of Samagaun and Chhekampar, two remote villages of Chumnubri Rural Municipality in Gorkha district, lie unused outside the food depots of Philim and Salleri in Gorkha district.
The government provides subsidies to transport salt to the food depots in Gorkha so that the residents of all seven wards of Chumnubri can avail of subsidised salt. But for the residents of the two remote villages, the subsidies on salt mean little since they have to spend so much money and time to travel to Philim or Salleri to buy a packet of salt.
“It takes two days to descend to Philim, the administrative centre of Chumnubri, from Samagaun and Chhekampar. It doesn’t make sense for the villagers to travel that distance for a packet of salt,” said Santabir Gurung of Philim.
The local people have asked the government to consider the geographical remoteness of the two villages while transporting subsidised salt, says Gurung.
“Many villagers from Samagaun and Chhekampar come to Salleri and Philim to collect subsidised rice but it makes no sense for them to travel all the way to the administrative centre to buy a packet of salt,” said Gurung. “The corporation should open small stores in the villages so that it’s easier for the villagers to buy salt.”
The government provides subsidies to transport salt to 22 districts, including Gorkha, across the country every year. The Salt Trading Corporation Limited has the authority to sell the subsidised salt. But in Gorkha, the contractor responsible for supplying salt also has the authority to sell the condiment since the corporation does not have a branch office in the district.
According to Shiva Sunar, the information officer at the Food Management and Trading Company Limited office in Gorkha, the contractor responsible for supplying salt to Philim and Salleri coordinated with the food company to sell salt along with subsidised rice from the food depots.
“Hundred and eighty quintals of salt were transported to Philim in the fiscal year 2019/20 and an additional 180 quintals to Salleri in the fiscal year 2020/21,” he said.
Local residents say the stock of subsidised salt in Philim is stored under the open sky and is no longer edible.
“The salt has melted and is leaking from the package. No one will consume the salt even if it’s distributed free of cost,” said Gurung.
Pragati Construction Service is the contractor responsible for transporting salt to Philim and Salleri. Dhan Bahadur Gurung, the owner of Pragati Construction Service, says he has left the salt under the open sky since no one came to buy it from him.
“I rented a room to store the salt but no one bought it,” said Dhan Bahadur. “I couldn’t keep renting the space so I moved the salt stock outside.”
Meanwhile, the Salt Trading Corporation Limited in Kathmandu says that it is unaware of the stock of unsold salt in northern Gorkha.
“The government allocates an annual budget to transport salt to various districts. We provide the transportation subsidy accordingly and regularly monitor the sale of salt,” said Ramchandra Mahato, an officer at the Salt Trading Corporation Limited central office in Kalimati. “So far, we have not been informed about salt being left unsold in Philim and Salleri food depots.”