ROURKELA: There seems to be no end to misuse and theft of public distribution system (PDS) foodgrains in Sundargarh district. After making headlines for misappropriation of PDS commodities through ghost ration cards last year, the authorities of the Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare department in the district are now under scanner for alleged theft of rice during transportation and distribution.
The allegations have come from Birmitrapur MLA Shankar Oram who said two trucks laden with PDS rice and wheat from Rourkela godown left for Jahiritoli and Purunapani panchayats of Nuagaon block on June 19. Suspecting pilferage of the commodities, Jahiritoli villagers stopped a truck that was carrying 238 bags of rice and 53 bags of wheat. The vehicle along with the foodgrains was handed over to Birmitrapur police. The other truck with 320 bags of rice did not reach Purunapani and is yet to be traced. The MLA claimed that the registration numbers of the trucks were found to be that of two-wheelers.
If sources involved in PDS rice distribution are to be believed, massive irregularities are taking place across the district. Some ‘Jogan Sahayaks’ recently complained that 50 kg bags of rice actually contain 48 kg due to which they have to face problems at distribution points. More than 2,900 quintal of rice is siphoned off per month due to under-weighing. Besides, in blatant violation of norms, custom rice from authorised mills gets diverted to distribution points instead of the rice receiving centres (RRCs) for quality and quantity check, they claimed.
Interestingly, rice bags under the brand name of Shree Om from an anonymous manufacturer are now flooding some markets of the district. Priced at Rs 20 per kg, the rice matches that of the PDS grains. Sources in the Food Supplies department said around 73,000 quintals of rice is supplied to the district per month. Sundargarh has 15 authorised rice mills and eight RRCs.
Contacted, civil supplies officer of Sundargarh MC Mangaraj said inquiry report on the Nuagaon block incident along with stock verification details of godown concerned has been received. He asserted that none would be spared if found guilty.
Meanwhile, former secretary of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee Rashmi Ranjan Padhi claimed that basing on his complaint of ghost ration cards, the district administration had launched investigation into 7,900 suspicious cards last year. However, nobody knows if any action was taken.