BHUBANESWAR: Finding serious lapses and irregularities in the decentralised purchase of paddy in Odisha during the current kharif marketing season, a Central fact-finding team has recommended the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution for a detailed audit of the procurement operation.
The four-member team led by the Union Additional Secretary (Policy and FCI), Department of Food and Public Distribution in its report to the Ministry said, "The findings substantiate the general complaint that farmers were not issued sufficient tokens thereby disabling them from bringing their produce to the market yard and denying them the opportunity to sell their produce within the procurement period."
The team, which undertook a tour to Odisha during March 23-25 following complaints from the State BJP MPs on alleged mismanagement of procurement, inspected four market yards in Bargarh, Balangir, Sonepur and Nayagarh districts to get first-hand information from the ground.
The window for paddy procurement operation was made open only for 75 days at Sohela Regulated Market Committee (RMC), 40 days at Salebhata RMC, 43 days at Dungripalli RMC and 90 days at Keranda Tangi RMC (Ranpur block) instead available time of 151 days.
"As observed during visit to various market yards, procurement window was opened for much less period. Also, it was found that substantial number of allotted tokens got lapsed," the report said. The period of procurement in Odisha was valid from November 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.
Similarly, the quality control process was almost non-existent and the inspector, appointed on contract, generally filled up the parameters as per whim and fancy without actual analysis. “The entire procurement process was found to be miller-driven.
Surprisingly, the State government has allowed millers to perform all mandi operations such as supply of used gunnies, transportation of paddy, loading and other labour works. This is against the guidelines of the Centre,” the team observed. Distribution of paddy amongst millers was not found transparent as it was at the discretion of PACS secretary.
Central team flags paddy purchase lapses, suggests detailed audit
This apart, electronic weighbridge of RMCs are not linked to the P-PAS and the system has no provision of storage of data, and date-wise and truck-wise issue of weighment slips. Lack of such facility raises suspicion on authenticity of weighment slip, the report stated.
In the absence of such facility, suspicion has arisen whether the stocks have actually arrived in the mandi and dispatched, thereby somewhat substantiating the general complaint that the farmers are forced to deliver their produce at the millers point and backward records being prepared manually, the report said.
"A complete audit of procurement process starting from registration of farmers to payment of MSP, physical verification of paddy allotted for milling and delivery of rice by millers in at least two revenue districts of the State may be got done," the team suggested.