BHOPAL: A syndicate comprising a registered transporter, foodgrain traders, and government employees who were siphoning off foodgrains and kerosene from the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) into the open market has been busted in the Mhow sub-division of Indore district in Madhya Pradesh.
The bust comes as a development ten days after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan handed the probe of supply of sub-standard rice (not fit for human consumption) under the TPDS and other schemes in Mandla and Balaghat district over to the state's Economic Offence Wing (EOW).
According to the Indore district administration sources, following a specific complaint in Mhow sub division, a raid was conducted at the godown of 'Harshit Traders' owned by Mohit Agrawal, whose father Mohanlal Agrawal has been a registered transporter of the State Civil Supplies Corporation.
The raid led to the discovery of more than 600 bags of rice meant for supply under the TPDS. The bills produced with respect to those rice bags too were found to be forged.
Subsequently, a special investigation team was constituted to probe the matter.
What investigation revealed
It revealed that Mohanlal Agrawal along with his fellow traders Lokesh Agrawal, Ayush Agrawal, and those operating the fair price shops were siphoning off foodgrain and kerosene (meant for supply to BPL families under the TPDS) into the open market.
Investigations revealed that after the foodgrain bags under the PDS were transported to fair price shops,
- the shop operators first signed on receipts acknowledging full receipt of the foodgrains
- But later eight to ten quintals of these foodgrains were taken out of the sealed bags and given to Agrawal's men, who paid the fair price shop owners good money for siphoning off the PDS foodgrains
- The concerned fair price shop operators later distributed less foodgrain and kerosene to beneficiaries under TPDS than what was actually allotted to individual beneficiaries.
Raids at concerned fair price shops revealed that PDS foodgrain bags that are sealed were actually found opened without following any official procedures and the rice found in the bags at these shops too was found substandard than what was actually sent to these shops from the Civil Supplies Corporation godowns.
Where did the siphoned grains and kerosene go?
Further probe found that the ration was sold in the open market by Agrawal and fellow traders after preparing forged bills.
The ongoing investigations till now have revealed that the siphoning racket was not only indulgent in siphoning of TPDS foodgrain but also kerosene, which was supplied under the same scheme meant for the poor.
According to the Indore district collector Manish Singh, as per the preliminary probe, the busted syndicate had been indulging in siphoning for a long time.
Primary probe findings suggest that the siphoned PDS foodgrain and kerosene could be worth around Rs 50 crores. But since Mohanlal Agrawal has been a registered transporter under the TPDS for 15-20 years, the actual volume could turn out to be much higher.
"The involvement of a State Civil Supplies Corporation employee too has come to the fore during the investigation, who too has been booked by police along with others," Singh said.
According to the Indore Police sources, five FIRs have been registered in the matter at Badgonda and Kishanganj police stations of Mhow subdivision against Mohanlal Agrawal, his two sons, the fellow traders, and the concerned state government employee.
"A reward of Rs 2,000 each has been declared on the arrest of the accused who are absconding. If the accused aren't arrested, then their properties will be confiscated and auctioned," an Indore police official said.
Rice not meant for human consumption
Importantly, in July and August, the lab analysis of 32 samples of rice (meant for supply under the PDS via fair price shop) collected from state agencies depots and one fair price shop in Balaghat and Mandla districts by the teams of the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, had revealed that all those samples were not worthy of human consumption and were fit only for being used as livestock, cattle and poultry feed.
Raising concern in the matter, the union ministry had requested the state government to withhold the rice stock available in the depots for further investigation and re-categorization, and also intimated to the state about the “grave lapses by the district officers, officials, and authorities.”
The state government was also asked to identify the concerned personnel and initiate action against them.
“Besides, the rice millers associated with the delivery of such ‘human unfit’ stock should be blacklisted with immediate effect,” the ministry had said in a letter to the MP Government last month.
On September 3, the CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan had handed over the probe in the entire matter to the state EOW.