Grain supply to the Northeast is likely to be hampered by the railways’ plan to link Assam with Tripura, Mizoram and parts of Manipur with broad-gauge connection. The railways has proposed a ‘mega block’ between October 2014 and March 2015 for carrying out the much-delayed gauge conversion for the 220-km Lumding-Badarpur-Agartala line.
Food ministry sources told FE that due to closure of the Lumding-Agartala section, transportation of grain through PDS is likely to be disrupted in Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Silchar district of Assam.
Food ministry officials have sought phase-wise completion of the project. Currently, more than 70% of PDS grain (around 3.2 lakh tonne per month) disbursed to the seven N-E states is transported via railways and remaining 30% via the road network.
The regions expected to be hit require more than 1 lakh tonne of PDS grain per month. While major parts of Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland have broad gauge rail connectivity, grain transportation to south Assam (Silchar district), Mizoram, Tripura and parts of Manipur is carried out by shifting to meter gauge rail from the broad gauge line at Lumding, Assam. The grain supply comes from surplus states like Punjab, Haryana and Chhattisgarh.
Currently, the NE states have grain stock of around 2.8 lakh tonne against a total storage capacity of 4.7 lakh tonne. Food Corporation of India officials recently expressed concern over non-availability of grain to meet even a month’s requirement.