In an effort to curb black marketing of food grains under the Public Distribution System (PDS), the state has decided to invoke Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes (MCOCA) for the first time against five suspects in a scam in Surgana taluka of Nashik district that was uncovered last month.
Announcing this, state’s Minister for Food and Civil Supplies and Pune’s guardian minister Girish Bapat said, “This is the first such case registered by our department against the mafia involved in pilferage of food grains. We intend to send out a strong message,” Bapat said at a press meet in the city on Monday.
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Last month, the Rs 7-crore scam in the public distribution system in Nashik was taken up in the state Assembly by Bapat, who had announced suspension of 16 employees, including the district supply officer, tehsildars and other officials in Nashik.
The minister said a report from the divisional commissioner was awaited after which further necessary action would be initiated. “The officials involved have been suspended so that a fair inquiry can be conducted. If they are found involved in the case directly, we would not hesitate to invoke MCOCA against these officials too,” Bapat said.
The minister said there was large-scale pilferage of food grains while its transportation to shops from the godowns of Food Corporation of India (FCI). According to him, the Nashik scam involved 31,000 quintals of food grains worth Rs 7.84 crore.
“We are also contemplating to invoke Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act once we get a clearance from the legal department, which will add teeth to our department and curb black marketing,” the minister said.
Bapat also spoke of plans to implement biometric system at all the 52,000 fair price shops in the state, saying it was in the final stages of approval and even the agency had been finalised.
According to the minister, the five members of ration mafia booked under MCOCA were Sampat Ghorpade, Vishwas Ghorpade, Arun Ghorpade, Magan Pawar and Ramesh Patankar. He said the kingpin was Sampat Ghorpade, who is said to have six cases registered against him already.
No Maggi ban yet
Bapat said the state had not imposed a ban on Maggi since the samples were still been tested. “The lab testing of samples are done in different states and sometimes the results take two months to come. We need to assess the report in details before a decision is taken,” Bapat said. Samples of Maggi were found to have excess of monosodium glutamate and lead in the instant noodles, after which the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India took up the case.