SANGAREDDY: Of late, there has been a marked increase in the number of people arrested for attempting to sell PDS rice, meant to feed the poor, in the black market.
This rice is distributed through the Civil Supplies department to the poor every month, but unscrupulous people sell it in the black market, mostly to neighbouring states like Karnataka and Maharashtra or to poultry farms or breweries. While poultry farm owners turn the corn and rice and use it as bird seed, breweries use them to brew liquor.
These officials, on condition of anonymity, say that if the government streamlines the process and distributes the rice to the genuinely deserving, it would go a long way in thwarting the smugglers.
As of now, the situation is alarming. From January to March, officials seized over 3,000 quintals of rice in Sangareddy district alone. These officials estimate that at least three times this quantity reaches Karnataka and Maharashtra without being detected.
In this period, officials seized nearly 2,000 quintals in Medak district and another 3,000 quintals in Siddipet district. Officials believe that it is not just the beneficiaries who sell this rice to the smugglers, but also some ration dealers.
Poultry traders are the biggest buyers of ration rice in the black market since maize is comparatively quite expensive. Lured by the money, some people work exclusively to procure rice from ration cardholders.
To thwart them, officials of the Civil Supplies and police departments have regularly conducted raids and seized PDS rice being smuggled in vehicles.
About 3,000 to 5,000 quintals of rice crosses the border on average every month from the erstwhile Medak district alone, as evident from the number of cases registered. However, officials believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
While PDS rice was sold at Rs 1 per kg earlier, the government has been giving it for free since last April due to Covid. Beneficiaries sell it to small hotels and grocery stores, as well as to black marketers for Rs 8 to `10 per kg.
These black marketers sell it for Rs 15 to Rs 20 per kg. Officials believe that about half of the total rice distributed by the government ends up in the black market.
Sangareddy district officials recently raided two ration shops and after examining the records, it was found that the rice in both the shops was less than the quota allotted to them.
The Civil Supplies officials registered malpractice cases against the dealer. This is not an isolated incident but just one in a long list.
Aan official from the Civil Supplies department said that if the ration rice was supplied only to those who consume it, it would be possible for the government to cut the supply by half.