The branded rice priced at exorbitant rates available in the market in reality may be rice meant for distribution among BPL ration card holders at the rate of Re 1 per kg. The journey of the Re 1 BPL rice to Rs 30 (average) branded rice starts right from the warehouses of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and with the connivance of a section of Civil Supplies Department officials, says sources in the City Police.
Over the past couple of weeks three attempts to divert the Public Distribution System (PDS) rice in the district were foiled by the police. In the latest incident, around 185 sacks of rice and 55 sacks of wheat were seized by the East Police on Thursday from a private godown at Paikada, which is the nerve centre of wholesale rice market in South Kerala.
The seizure was based on a series on investigations at various levels. Police found that the food grains meant for a ration shop in Eravipuram was being diverted. The load was traced to a private godown. The rice was packed in fresh bags with a price tag of Rs 30 per kg. The owner of the ration shop at Eravipuram, Sasidharan Pillai, middlemen Abdul Rasheed and Suneer, both based in Pallimukku, were arrested by the police. East Sub-Inspector G Gopakumar told ‘Express’ that police were on the lookout for the owner of the warehouse and the owner of the vehicle which transported the rice. No proper address is maintained with the City Corporation which issued the licence for the warehouse. It is presumed that the warehouse has been taken on lease from the original licensee, police said.
“It is a tempting business,” said a rice dealer at Paikada Road. “The ration dealers are attracted to black market sales. The margin level in the transformation of the ration rice to branded one is high,” he said. The market for such transformed rice stretches from Malabar to Travancore, he added.
According to East Police sources, the ration rice seized on Thursday was found in branded bags bearing the name ‘Apple.’ The rice dealers in the Paikada Road said that this brand was not available here and said that it was mainly sold in northern districts.
Meanwhile, the police said that the rationing inspector concerned would also be arraigned in the case. The rationing inspector is duty-bound to ensure that the stock distributed from the godown reaches the ration shop concerned.
While it is evident that the nexus between a section of Civil Supplies Department officials, ration shop owners and some dealers are behind the shady dealings, most of the officials and kingpins of the black market sales go scot free.
Sources in the police said that getting evidence against government officials involved was difficult, as records would be tampered with immediately after the smuggled ration rice was seized by the police.