Updated: January 30, 2021 3:04:51 am
Joint teams of CBI and vigilance wing of Food Corporation of India (FCI) Friday conducted surprise checks at 40 godowns in Punjab and Haryana following complaints of irregularities in storage of grains.
“The CBI is conducting the joint surprise checks as part of preventive vigilance. There is no FIR in this connection. It is a preventive measure to rule out any irregularities. The nature of complaints (received) include inadequate storage of grains, damage to the grains,” a CBI spokesperson said.
In its first reaction, the Punjab government said it is watching whether the raids were a part of “hidden agenda” or the central agency genuinely wanted to check the irregularities in quality of wheat and rice stocks.
The CBI started the operations late Thursday evening with the checks continuing at the time of writing this report. The state-agency godowns leased to the FCI in eight of the 13 FCI districts were covered during the joint operation, a government source said. The CBI sleuths checked the quality and quantity of the central-pool foodgrain stocks stored in these godowns.
“They collected samples of wheat and rice pertaining to 2019-20 and 2020-21 procurement seasons,” Punjab Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said.
Ashu said that they were not perturbed at the raids as the “Centre is most welcome to run the quality checks but if there was a hidden agenda to teach Punjab a lesson for the state opposing the Centre’s farm laws, we are keeping a watch.”
Ashu said, “They have told us that they are doing quality checks of the grains stored inside. They are most welcome to do so. Since the rice of central stocks are kept in FCI godowns and those hired by FCI, we have nothing much to do. We support them. But I want to tell them that the raids cannot hamper our milling process. If they do so then we will object. We need to finish with the milling of paddy by March 31 as we will have the wheat crop in April. We are already short on storage space. If they want to get back to Punjab for supporting the agitating farmers, then we will condemn the move.”
On a question that the raids were conducted in Haryana too, he said the raids were nothing new for Punjab. “There were similar checks conducted in 2004 and 2010 too. If these raids are also like the earlier process, then we have no objection.”
Ashu recalled how the Centre was delaying Rural Development Fund (RDF) to Punjab levied on procurement of paddy. “They have been doing all this. Hence, we are watching quietly,” he said.
The raids were conducted at 11 godowns of Punjab State Warehousing Corporation. These include five godowns at Khanna, four at Jagraon, one each at Mansa and Kapurthala. Others include those hired by state agency Pungrain situated at Patti, Fazilka, Ferozepore, Bathinda, Ajitwal and Lehra Gaga.
The FCI godowns where the raids were held are at Dhuri, Rampura Phul, Ferozepore, Budhlada, and Tapa. Raids were also conducted on Central Warehousing Corporation godowns at Muktsar.
In addition, around 10 godowns at Shahbad and Sirsa in Haryana will also be covered during the surprise-check operation, the sources said.
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