CHANDIGARH: Bags of rice meant for distribution among the poor (for Rs 3 per Kg) in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are making their way into Punjab illegally. At times, the bags delivered to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in 2017-18 —with printed Punjab lot number — were also found.
Sources said the practice of recycling public distribution system (PDS) rice has been on for last few years in Punjab and Haryana. The illegal supply was detected last year between September and November. A probe showed that 1.90 lakh bags of paddy (37.5 kg per bag) and one lakh bags of rice (50 kg per bag) were seized by the Punjab food supplies department in 41 raids. The department got seven cases registered with the police.
“The modus operandi is simple. Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, the FCI procures paddy from Punjab and Haryana and in some cases after milling, distributes the rice to other states. This rice is meant for sale through the PDS system. Bags of rice or paddy come back in trucks (540 bags of rice and 400 bags of paddy per truck) and are bought by rice millers here at Rs 2,200 per quintal and sold back to the procurement agencies for Rs 2,900 per quintal, thus leading to a profit of Rs 700 per quintal. In UP and Bihar, the price is Rs 1,000 per quintal. Fake bills are produced as the MSP here is Rs 1,750 per quintal.”
“Once this paddy or rice reaches rice millers they get fake bills and show it as purchased from the mandis. The paperwork is thus complete though no actual purchase is made. As rice does not attract any GST and no permission is needed for interstate transfer, traders make fake bills and the product is transferred. In most cases, when caught, traders presented these bills as they are difficult to verify,” he said.
Sources said the state government has instructed rice millers to show paddy and rice found in their mills as their own purchase and whenever they sell these commodities they need to record it with the district manager of the procurement agency concerned. It will ensure that they will not be able to pass off these stocks to FCI.
Sources said that these bags of rice and paddy were coming from Muzaffarpur, Muradabad, Gaya, Sitapur and Gulabgarh in Bihar and Bulandshahr, Bareilly and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Director Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Punjab, Anindita Mitra, said, “In the coming season, we will intensify efforts to detect and eliminate bogus purchases and billing through the use of technology and required amendments in the policy framework. We have already brought this matter to the notice of FCI.”
Sources said in last six years, the procurement of paddy was increasing every year despite the fact that the yield and area of production remained constant. In 2017, it was 179 lakh metric tonnes and in 2016, 165 lakh MT and in 2018 it was expected to cross 200 lakh metric tonnes in Punjab but it is now 169 lakh MT after the crackdown.