In a first, the West Bengal government has decided to provide rice at Rs two per kg to sex workers and poor HIV patients in the state.
"This project is the brainchild of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. For the first time in the country, a state government has decided that sex workers and poor HIV patients will be given rice at Rs 2 per Kg," state Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick said.
Poor leprosy patients, deaf and dumb children in various homes will also be included in the scheme and in the first phase, about one lakh beneficiaries from across the state will be identified for the purpose, the minister said in an interview.
The state food department, he said, is all set to start a survey in a few days to identify sex workers and HIV positive patients in the state.
"The survey will be completed in the next six months and the implementation of the project will start from January next year," Mullick said.
"We have seen how old and ill sex workers suffer at times. So this project of providing them rice at a subsidised rate will help them to some extent. The same applies for poor HIV patients in the state," he said.
The survey would be first carried out in the red light areas of the state such as Sonagachhi in the city. It would be done by officials of the food department in coordination with local authorities.
"To identify HIV positive patients, we will appoint a food department official in all the state-run hospitals. We will collect the data from the hospital and send those details to the health department for further verification," Mullick said.
Once the verification is complete, ration card numbers of the HIV positive patients will be put into the data bank of the food department so that they can avail rice at Rs 2 per Kg from nearby ration shops, he said.