Hounded by reports of missing paddy and a subsequent rap by the Punjab and Haryana High Court recently,the state government has now embarked upon a clean-up act.
State district food and civil supply officers (DFSCs) are currently on a mission to check over 3,000 millers for inspection of the stocks lying with them and ensure that the stocks are at par with the records of the state government. More importantly,they have been tasked to book the millers who have siphoned off paddy meant for public distribution system (PDS).
After procurement of paddy each season,agencies like Food Corporation of India (FCI),Pungrain,Punjab Wharehousing Corporation,Punsup,Markfed and Punjab Agro send paddy to rice shellers and millers for storing and milling.
FCI stores most of the stock in its own godowns. The millers and the agency then become the joint custodian of the paddy stored in their compound. The millers have to then mill the paddy and return the rice to the agency concerned. As per rules,paddy is allotted to a rice shell owner,keeping in mind the milling capacity it has,the land it has to store the paddy,facilities and even the distance from the mandi from where the paddy has been procured.
However,of late,it had come to light that rice sheller owners and other persons who enjoyed political patronage,got paddy issued in the names of their wives and mothers,set up dubious shellers which at times were much far away from the area of procurement. At places,after milling,sheller owners sold paddy in the local market or exported it,thus cheating the state government. The Rs 10-crore paddy scam in Ferozepur is an apt example of such bungling.
Harkesh Sidhu,Director (Food and Supplies) said: While we had initiated a clean-up process before the court intervened,the Punjab and Haryana High Court order has come as a boon in disguise for us. Following the orders,officials are not under pressure to ensure that their stocks are in place. Wherever stocks are missing,the millers have to be booked and recoveries made. The bottom line is that the courts have ruled that the officials,under whose regime most scams broke out,be booked. So,officials are now answerable.
Asked whether the missing paddy could be worth around Rs 1,000 crore,Sidhu said,The DFSCs will submit their reports to us within a week and then we will have a clear picture of how much paddy is missing.
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