The response to the Rs. 20-a-kg rice scheme launched recently by the State Government is at the most sluggish.
Consumers are not over enthusiastic about lifting the commodity being marketed through the wholesale cooperative stores and the departmental stores run by the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation.
Though started as a buffer to beat the inflationary trend in the open market the scheme cannot be said to have achieved its objective yet.
S. Kamala (47) of Semmandalam told this correspondent that the brownish rice dispensed through the stores gave an impression that it was not duly polished. There was also a string attached to it that rice would be marketed only in the multiples of five kg which many could not afford.
K. Andiappan (52) of the Pudupalayam area said that what was supplied under the scheme could not fully qualify for a fine variety.
It could easily pass for the rice supplied through the fair price shops.
He further said that when the fair price shops were supplying rice free of cost, the Rs. 20-a-kg rice would not have many takers.
It might be attractive to the hoteliers and those running mess (but such bulk selling is not allowed), but not to the middle class and high-end customers.
Official sources told this correspondent that on an average one to one-and-half tonne of rice was being sold through 10 outlets in Cuddalore district daily. Of these seven are under the purview of the Saravanabava Wholesale Cooperative Stores and three under the control of the TNCSC.
The sources said that gauging the mood of the people now these outlets were also measuring out one — two kg of rice, as per the requirements of the consumers.
The cooperative stores were even packing the rice in cloth bags, while the TNCSC stores were packing it in plastic bags, without charging any thing extra.
The officials were fully aware of the fact that the “discolouration” of rice was acting as a deterrent. The sources attributed the discolouration — either brownish or dull yellowish colour — to the process of dehusking the paddy through double boiling system.
It was being contemplated to resort to single boiling system as it would retain the whiteness of the grain.
It was likely that the government-owned modern rice mill at Neyveli would also be activated to supply rice for the scheme.
The sources also said that the feedback from the consumers was being obtained to bring about certain improvements in the implementation of the scheme.