The Bihar government has set a November 15 deadline to recover dues of over Rs 2,200 crore, accrued in three years from financial year 2011-12 to 2013-14, from 911 millers, who failed to return rice to the government. The state government has said it would confiscate defaulting mills if they failed to pay off the dues by the deadline.
The millers had allegedly connived with officials to “procure bulk paddy in advance” as against the government norms of giving paddy to millers in installments for processing into rice that is then sold to Food Corporation of India.
After getting paddy worth crores against a security deposit of Rs 50,000 for each miller, several millers allegedly sold it in open markets and became government defaulters.
The Indian Express in its three-part ‘Grain of Untruth’ series in May 2013 had exposed how state government suffered a loss of Rs 534 crore 2011-12 fiscal owing to millers’ connivance with state officials. Owing to lack of an effective anti-graft mechanism, the state government suffered losses of Rs 905 cr in 2012-13 financial year and Rs 802 cr in the 2013-14 fiscal.
Bihar Food and Consumer Protection Minister Shyam Rajak told The Indian Express: “We have learnt from our past mistakes and discrepancies. We have set final deadline to 911 millers, who will have to cough up dues or lose their mills. We have now switched over to a new system of giving only 15 days to millers to process paddy into rice. We have also increased security deposits by manifold to avoid default”. The tainted millers would not be eligible for fresh paddy procurement, added the minister.
The highest defaulting districts are Kaimur (167 mills), Aurangabad (108 mills) and Rohtas (100 mills) that owe the state Rs 111 crore, Rs 50 crore and Rs 42 crore, respectively. Other defaulters are Bhojpur (Rs 58 crore), West Champaran (Rs 74 crore), Gaya (Rs 43 crore) Nawada (Rs 31 crore).
Bihar State Food and Civil Supplies Corporation managing director Arvind Kumar Singh said: “We are first sending notices to these mills facing certificate cases for recovery. We will start process of confiscating their mills post November 15 deadline.”