Om Shukla, former Congress councillor from Panchkula alleged that a depot holder in the Abheypur colony was selling rations meant to be supplied to poor under the Public Distribution Scheme to a private Ahrtiya.
While Shukla claimed to have witnessed the sale negotiations himself, policemen as well as current councillor from the area, Rajesh Kumar of the JJP denied the incident, stating the material being sold “does not fall under the food rations supply of the state” and was from his own personal buying through other sources.
“It was around noon when I received a call from locals that the said depot holder is selling rations of the PDS scheme to another man outside his depot. As I rushed to the spot, he fled recognising me. I then called the police as well as the food supply department for further inquiry,” said Shukla.
Depot holder Santosh Kumar, “has indulged in such activities earlier as well,” alleged locals. “It is a well-known fact that he never gives full ration to the beneficiaries under the scheme. Huge amounts are sanctioned off by him through cheating the people,” said Rahul Raghav, a local.
“We have investigated the matter and have only found empty gunny bags in the trolley which a depot holder is allowed to sell. Moreover, stock inside the depot matches with the balance amount he should have as per the records of online transactions,” said Assistant District Food Supply Officer (AFSO) Rajiv Sharma.
District Food Supply Officer (DFSO) Neeraj Sharma did not respond to efforts made for reaching out to him.
“This is a matter of the food supply department. Once their investigation is over and if they deem fit to hand us a complaint, we will definitely look into the matter as per protocol,” said Inspector Dillip Singh, SHO, Sector 20 police station.
“The grains being sold by him were not wheat. He was selling his own stock of grains, not the ones allotted to him for the PDS system. A food supply Inspector will confirm you as much,” said Rajesh Kumar.
A police officer investigating the case on ground said on the condition of anonymity, “There were gunny bags but they were all filled with bajra, not wheat. The accused told us he procured the said Bajra from Vikas Nagar and Chandigarh and was only selling it. He was not selling the depot rations.”
However, visuals in a video shot by Shukla show eight gunny bags filled with wheat inside a tempo.
Shukla alleged an involvement of the accused Santosh with the ward councillor saying, “They are both hand in glove and thus the JJP councillor is trying to save him. What sense does it make for him sell ‘private’ grains outside of the depot he runs? If they were his ‘personal’ grain why was he hiding them under empty gunny bags and why did he run away on spotting me?” he questioned.
Explaining the modus operandi, Shukla added, “The depot holders have a very clever system. They do not give the full amount of ration. If 5 kg is to be given, they only give 2.5 kgs and keep the rest. Anyone who raises a voice is either black listed, beaten, or threatened so those in need can say nothing.”
The Public Distribution System has been the sole source of support for underprivileged people as the economic crisis precipitated by Covid-19 wreaked havoc in their lives.
As many as 137 ration depots are functional in Panchkula district with 47,000 registered beneficiaries. Santosh has almost 400 beneficiaries under his ration depot.