Arunachal Pradesh wants to recruit porters for moving food grains in remote areas

British-era system will help State avoid freight charges payable to IAF

Arunachal Pradesh has sought a return to the British-era system of using porters to transport food grains in remote administrative circles to save on air freight charges paid or payable to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Regular appointment of porters under the Auxiliary Labour Corps (ALC) introduced a century ago by the British rulers was stopped after Arunachal Pradesh attained statehood in 1987.

Porters have been hired temporarily since then, specifically during elections when polling material need to be carried to and from 518 remote and inaccessible polling stations.

“We have a backlog of ₹337 crore in air freight charges to be paid to the IAF for service in 13 air-fed circles of the State. It is high time we reintroduced the porter system for transportation of food grains,” State Food and Civil Supplies Minister Kamlung Mosang said.

He saw merit in going back to the old system of people lugging essentials on steep mountainous tracks and through jungles.

“This will not only minimise the expenditure on air freight charges but also create job opportunities for the rural youth in areas along the State’s international borders,” the minister said, adding that he had directed the officials concerned to work out a plan for obtaining the approval of the State cabinet.

Arunachal Pradesh has a total of 1,680 km border with three countries – Bhutan, China and Myanmar. According to the Central government’s Border Area Development Programme, the State has 1,555 villages in the border blocks inhabited by more than 2.71 lakh people.

Officials said porters were indispensable in the 83,743 sq km State where connecting human habitations in remote areas is an “uphill task”.

“Members of the ALC used to serve as a bridge between the government and the people. We will have to work out the feasibility of appointing porters regularly, but we cannot do without them at the time of distributing public distribution system materials, elections, opening of new administrative centres and natural calamities,” a government spokesperson said.

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