A Rs 33.6 crore alleged paddy scam has pitted the state government and Punjab National Bank (PNB) against each other, each, in its bid to recover losses, staking claim in the left out stock and recoveries from the buildings and assets mortgaged by Veerumal Mulkhraj Jain Rice Mill to the bank. Accused — mill owner Gulshan Jain, sons Nitin and Sudhir and daughters-in-law Nitu and Sophiya — have gone into hiding.
While the PNB approached Amritsar court seeking directions that the left out paddy should not be disposed of without taking it on board; Punjab Vigilance department took over the probe into the case from Amritsar (rural) police Tuesday.
On April 2, food and civil supplies department noticed that 1,200 truckloads of government paddy worth Rs 33.6 crore was missing. The rice mill, now stands locked, was to shell the paddy to convert into rice, which was to be eventually supplied to Food Corporation of India.
On April 5, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had ordered a Vigilance probe into the case. Same day, Amritsar (rural) police registered a case of cheating against Jain, his two sons and their wives.
The left out paddy worth nearly Rs 15 crore was subsequently recovered.
Satyawan Ohlan, PNB’s circle head in Amritsar, said the missing paddy could be the private purchases of the miller, or varieties of paddy 1509 and 1121 that government did not procure or the one belonging to previous seasons and in those scenarios “cannot be termed as government paddy”.
Food and Civil Supplies Director Anindita Mitra, however, said the stock of the mill was zero at the start of Kharif season procurement. “So there is no question either that there was any government paddy of previous season,” she said .
The PNB has marked an internal probe also. Zonal Manager P S Chauhan said the bank had initiated proceedings to recover the money. The PNB also approached Punjab police for registration of a case, alleging fraud/embezzlement of Rs 202 crore.
“Two mortgaged buildings are worth Rs 40 crore. Two plants have latest machinery and if one sets up such units today, it will require an investment of about Rs 100 crore. Another Rs 10 crore could be realised from the left out stock. The actual amount, which could be realised, may be between Rs 125 crore and Rs 140 crore,” Ohlan said.
Mitra, however, said since government paddy was siphoned off, only the state government was entitled to realise the losses after auction of the mortgaged property.