PUDUCHERRY: The alleged corruption in the free rice scheme rocked the Puducherry Legislative Assembly on Friday, with the Opposition demanding a probe into the scam.
Replying to a question from AIADMK member A Anbazhagan, Chief Minister N Rangasamy said every month, 10 kg of free single boiled rice was being provided to all the ration cardholders in Puducherry and Karaikal regions.
He said the rice was procured from the State Trading Corporation, a government of India enterprise, by PAPSCO through an open tender. For Puducherry region, the procurement rate was `30.95 per kg, while for Karaikal Region, it was `31.85 per kg, he added.
Anbazhagan, who brought samples of the rice to the House, said there were irregularities to the tune of `3.5 crore in the scheme. Several varieties of rice were being supplied at different fair price shops and it was of inferior quality, he added.
He said that when the N R Congress came to power, it had charged the previous government with corruption in the free rice scheme and sought to know what action had been taken.
When his question evoked no reply, he alleged that the N R Congress government was also following the same path and demanded a probe into the rice procurement.
Om Sakthi Segar (AIADMK) said he could prove the corruption charges with evidence. When there was no positive response, the AIADMK members staged a walkout. Following the exit of AIADMK members, who returned after some time, Congress members took up the issue with Leader of the Opposition V Vaithilingam, questioning the need for purchasing the rice for `31 from STC, when the same was available at `21 a kg in the market.
The CM said he was ready to purchase any quantity of rice if Vaithilingam could provide the rice for `21 per kg. When Vaithilingam said it was available, the
Speaker V Sabapathy intervened and said that at the rate of `21 per kg, only broken rice could be got. Reacting to it, Vaithilingam saidgood quality rice was being sold at that rate and invited the Speaker to accompany him. The Speaker said he would after the Assembly session. Later, Vaithilingam questioned the necessity of purchasing rice on tender at `31 per kg without getting levy rice from the Food Corporation of India(FCI) .
Then, the Congress MLA K Lakshminarayanan said that when STC was procuring the rice at the rate of `24.50 per kg, he questioned the necessity of the government to procure the same by paying `30.50 per kg. It was a loss of revenue to the tune of `2.52 crore for two months, he said, adding that when the State rice mill owners were ready to supply rice at `28 per kg, he questioned the government for procuring it at a higher rate.
DMK A M H Nazeem said the Chief Minister as well as a Congress MP here had stated that corruption in the scheme was prevalent during the previous government and that a probe should be ordered.
To this, Vaithilingam, who was the Chief Minister then, said he was ready for the probe, if the Chief Minister Rangasamy ordered a probe into the rice procurement by his government.