PALAKKAD: Twenty-six tonnes. That’s the amount of ration rice seized from areas lying cheek by jowl with Pollachi and Coimbatore over the past month. A clear indication of smuggling picking up intensity after a brief lull. That nefarious elements delve into the free ration for BPL cardholders in Tamil Nadu makes the act all the more unscrupulous.
The Kozhinjampara Police, along with the Civil Supplies Department, made the seizure.
“On June 12, we seized at least 20 tonnes of ration rice stored in two shops at the Walayar dam site,” Palakkad District Supplies Officer V K Shashidharan told Express.
“The rice supplied by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in recent times is of a very good quality. It is collected by agents at a very low price from the rural folk in villages and transported in trains and other modes. It is stored in shops or godowns on the border and then sold in bulk to rice merchants or mills in Kerala.”
The shop owners, he said, were abusive this time and threatened to slip into violence.
“We had to call in the Walayar Police for protection to transport the 20 tonnes into the godowns of the Civil Supplies Corporation. In February, too, we had seized around 30 tonnes from three shops at Walayar and cases were registered against them. We brought the seized ration rice in six tempos to Palakkad town,” Shashidharan said.
Chittur Taluk Supplies Officer R Manoj pointed to three other major hauls, amounting to 5,330 kg. “While 1,240 kg was seized on May 30 from the shed of a certain Rajan of Kozhinjampara by the police, another 1,930 kg was seized from the house of another person, Raja, on the Velanthavalam-Ozhalapathy road. On June 11, 2,160 kg was seized from a Tata Sumo during a vehicle inspection by the police. The consignments have been handed over to us and we have registered cases,” he said.
The ration rice is transported in small vehicles, including bullock carts from across the border and stored in houses in the state, said Kozhinjampara SI Saji Kumar. “There are also godowns in the area to store smuggled rice. It is later polished and marketed at a fancy price under various brands to consumers in Kerala. In the past two months, we have seized at least 10 tonnes from vehicles.”
The big question being raised is whether the rice was being sold by wholesalers in TN to unscrupulous traders or the beneficiaries themselves were indulging in these activities.
In either case, it is the common people of both states who are being cheated. While the target groups were being denied free food in TN, people in the consumer state of Kerala will be paying through their nose for ration rice in the garb of a branded product.