BHOPAL: The Centre has asked the Madhya Pradesh government to stop distribution of rice in the state through fair price shops and the targeted public distribution system after rice stocks in four depots and one fair price shop in tribal dominated and Maoist-affected Mandla and Balaghat districts were found to be “unfit for human consumption.”
In a letter sent to the MP principal secretary (food and civil supplies), accessed by this newspaper, the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said after inspection, the quality of rice was found to fall in three categories: category 1 was fit for goat, horse and sheep, category 2 was fit for cattle, and category 3 was fit for poultry.
The Union ministry was of the view that old and expired rice were supplied to the depots and godowns for distribution to consumers while on paper fresh stock was shown to have been procured.
“As per the records of the godowns, the receipt of the stocks from where the samples were drawn were procured in the months May to July 2020 while the condition of the stock represents a different picture altogether. The stocks are 100% recycled old stock and the gunnies used for storage are also at least 2-3 years old,” the Union ministry pointed out.
In a late evening action, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that a criminal case would be filed against those involved in irregularities and black marketing of rations.
While the services of quality controllers in the two districts were terminated, the Balaghat district manager was suspended in the case. Action is being taken against the concerned millers by registering FIR against them.
Earlier, former rural development minister Kamleshwar Patel and Congress MLA said “instead of posing for the camera in the name of meeting flood-affected people”, the CM and the state government should act against the erring officials.
Teams of the storage and research division of the department of food & public distribution of the union ministry had inspected four depots of state agencies and one fair price shop in the two districts between July 30 and August 2.
In total 32 samples, 31 from the depots and one from the ration shop, were collected and they were analysed at the NABL-accredited Central Grain Analysis Lab, Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi.
“The analysis reports of the total 32 samples were found to be not just beyond below rejection limit as per the uniform specifications issued by the Union ministry, but also beyond the PFA standards as per the FSSAI. The stocks are found to be unfit for human consumption,” Union ministry said.
The ministry said the stocks were “in the categories of Feed-I, which is meant to be suitable for livestock feed such as goat, horse and sheep, Feed-II, which is suitable for cattle feed, and Feed-III, which is suitable for poultry feed.”
“In this context, concern has arisen regarding the other stock also in Madhya Pradesh. Therefore, it is requested to withhold the rice stock available in the depots for further investigation and recategorisation,” the Union ministry told the state government.
The Union ministry said there were “grave lapses by the district officers, officials and authorities” and asked the state government to identify the personnel concerned and initiate action against them.
“Besides, the rice millers associated in delivery of such ‘human unfit’ stock should be blacklisted with immediate effect,” the ministry said in its letter to the MP government.