After unearthing a massive scam in the rice procurement system of Chhattisgarh PDS, the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau has found a similar scam in procurement of salt. The modus operandi in both rice and salt purchases, according to the police, is the same, as the Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd allegedly allowed traders to sell “rejected ration” in lieu of heavy commission to the department, which was distributed up to top government functionaries. While 12 employees of the corporation are in jail for the rice scam, some Gujarat-based salt traders have been named in the salt probe.
Amrit Namak is specially iodised salt, 2 kg of which is distributed free through PDS system to every BPL and Antyodaya family under a special programme to provide them nutritional security.
The state government spends nearly Rs 100 crore every year under its Food Security Act to purchase this salt for over 65 lakh eligible households through tenders. The scheme is particularly crucial in tribal areas where villagers suffer from a variety of food-related deficiencies, as lack of iodine causes serious diseases, included stunted growth.
“Over 50 per cent of the samples we took failed quality tests. Salt should be properly iodised. While at the producer level it must have 30 ppm of iodine, at the consumer level it should contain 15 ppm. However, these samples had just 5-7 ppm,” ADG (ACB) Mukesh Gupta told The Sunday Express.
Gupta noted that even the polythene used for packaging the salt was of poor quality. “These plastic bags were well below the mandatory requirement of 50 microns. If polythene is not of required standard, salt will gather moisture and damage quickly,” he said. “We have already taken strict action in case of rice commissions. We are now investigating the salt component,” Gupta added.
Significantly, salt for PDS is required to undergo quality checks first at the port of supply and then where it is received. The food department, however, apparently relaxed quality control at both levels.
Several quality inspectors have already been suspended following ACB’s raids on the corporation’s offices last month. According to the police, the modus operandi in the salt scam was the same as the one used in the rice scam.
The corporation apparently took commission from traders and allowed them to sell poor quality product. The police have found that one Raipur-based Munish Shah was operating as the agent of Gujarati traders. While the salt procurement is supposed to be through tenders, over the past several years, just a few traders from Gujarat had been selling salt in Chhattisgarh through Shah.
When contacted, Director (Food) Dr Kamal Preet Singh suggested Corporation’s M D Brijesh Mishra should be contacted. Mishra refused to respond on the issue.