Food depots in Mugu district empty as contractors delay supply of subsidised riceDistrict residents have to pay higher prices to buy the grain from local markets.
The godown of the Food Management and Trading Company Limited in Gamgadhi, the district headquarters of Mugu, has been empty for a month as the contractor did not supply the subsidised rice on time.
The local people who have been visiting the godown to buy rice have had to return home empty-handed due to the shortage of rice grains in the company’s depot. They have no alternative but to buy rice from the local market at a higher price.
“We go to the godown almost every day hoping to buy rice but they always send us back empty-handed,” said Laxmi Bham of Chhayanath Rara Municipality. Bham is a daily wage worker and so are the other members of her family. For families like theirs, buying rice in the local market means spending extra money.
“We have to pay Rs 500 extra to get a sack of rice in the local market. It’s getting difficult for us to manage our monthly expenses since we have been unable to get subsidised rice at the godown,” she said.
According to her, a 25-kg rice sack costs Rs 1,500 at the Food Management and Trading Company Limited’s depot but it costs more than Rs 2,000 at the local market.
The Food Management and Trading Company Limited has allocated 11,000 quintals of subsidised rice to Mugu, a food insecure district of Karnali Province, for the fiscal year 2021/22.
Khadak Construction Service was awarded the contract to supply 9,000 quintals of rice out of the allocated 11,000 to Mugu from Surkhet.
But the contractor has supplied only 900 quintals of rice to the district as of now.
According to Pushkar Bham, acting chief at the Food Management and Trading Company Limited’s godown in Gamgadhi, the contractor has not supplied any subsidised rice to Mugu for the past one month.
“The company’s godown has only 100 quintals of rice in stock for emergency use,” he said.
Khadak Construction Service had signed the contract with the food company with the agreement to charge Rs 6 to transport one kilogram of rice to Mugu from the company’s provincial office in Surkhet. But according to Ram Devi Khadka, owner of Khadak Construction Service, it stopped supplying rice since the current rate of Rs 6 per kg does not cover the total cost.
Besides Gamgadhi, Soru Rural Municipality and Shreekot Municipality in Mugu are yet to receive subsidised rice. Siddhartha Transportation Service is responsible for supplying rice to both the depots. The contractor transported just 120 quintals of rice to Shreekot in the current fiscal year and none to the depot in Soru.
“The contractor has not supplied even a sack of rice to Soru this year. The local people are facing shortages of food grains since the October rains damaged paddy, millet and beans in the region,” said Lok Bahadur Shahi, the chairman of Soru Rural Municipality.
The Food Management and Trading Company Limited has allocated 1,000 quintals of rice each to Soru, Shreekot and Pulu depots of Mugumkarmarong Rural Municipality in the current fiscal year. Rinimokshya Construction Service was awarded the contract in Pulu but the contractor has also failed to supply rice.
Mugu faces food shortages almost every year, as the designated contractors do not transport rice on time. The Nagma-Gamgadhi road, which connects Mugu with the national road networks, is often blocked by snowfall in December, January and February, disrupting the transportation of essential goods to the district.
The Karnali region also sees a lot of discrepancies in the supply, management and sale of rice. In October 2020, police seized a truck carrying 250 kgs of subsidised rice at Subbakuna Check Post in Surkhet. The consignment meant for Mugu was headed to Bhaktapur in Bagmati Province.
Subsidised rice is transported to various districts of Karnali from Surkhet, Nepalgunj, Dang and Dhangadhi through air and land. Some contractors even transport rice to Karnali from Bajura and Bajhang districts of Sudurpaschim Province.