Villages stare at famine as rice rots in depots

DHANGADI: Famine looms large over remote villages of the far-west hilly districts as food depots in the areas remain closed.

The rice stored at Nepal Food Corporation’s godowns in the district headquarters of Bajhang, Darchula and Baitadi have been rotting. On the other hand, villagers in the hinterlands have been facing risk of famine as the depots, that are supposed to distribute subsidised rice in the rural areas, are not functioning.

There used to be food depots in Paribagar, Khandeshwori and Sunsera of Darchula. However, the facilities are yet to be reestablished since they were displaced during the Maoist insurgency.

Food depots at Purchotihat, Melauli and Kulaun of Baitadi along with the one at Melbisauna of Bajhang have been closed as well. Interestingly, the state-owned corporation has been allocating rice quota to the depots every year without fail.

“Sacks of rice have been rotting in the district headquarters while the villagers in the rural areas are famished,” said Lokendra Singh, a local of Bajhang, Tallakot.

Dhangadi-based NFC zonal office Chief Dilliraj Lamsal also conceded that food grains in the district headquarters were rotting. “We know about the villagers’ plight, but we have not been able to run the food depots due to manpower crunch,” argued Lamsal, who also attributed the problem to the high-handedness of the contractors.

“We are helpless despite knowing the problems as the contractors have the upper hand here. They supply rice to the running depots only when the time is favourable for them,” he said.

“The problem is exacerbated by monsoon rains, as contractors are not supplying food to the depots,” he added.

As per the data of the zonal office, Bajhang, Bajura, Darchula, Baitadi, and Achhham have received 600; 13,000; 3,500; 2,200; and 2,400 quintals of rice respectively in this fiscal year so far. The districts have the quota of 1,100; 16,000; 4,500; 2,200 and 2,400 quintals of rice respectively for this fiscal.

Mel Bisauna, Dantola, Kanda, Rilu of Bajhang along with Paribagar, Khandeshwori, Sunsera of Darchula and Purchoti of Baitadi have also been facing similar problem.