South Asian Insider
Bengal Govt Cracks Down on Nearly 300 Ration Dealers for Corruption, Retrieves Stolen Food Items
On April 16, CM Mamata Banerjee had announced the removal of the secretary of the Bengal food and supplies department amid allegations of ration malpractices. (News Agencies) Kolkata: The West Bengal government has cracked down upon close to 300 ration dealers for their involvement in corrupt practices while distribution amid COVID-19 lockdown across the state. The action was taken amid allegations that there are some ration dealers who are not following the set guidelines of the state government, while streamlining the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Bengal.Meanwhile, opposition leaders have alleged that a section of ration dealers backed by TMC leaders are involved in hoarding and black-marketing of food-grains meant for PDS. Speaking to the News18, West Bengal Food and Supplies Minister, Jyoti Priya Mallick, said, “There was never an issue while distributing rations to the people. During this time, some of the dealers were involved in malpractices. The matter came to our notice and we have taken stern action against them.” Mallick said that these dealers were distributing 50-100 grams less food grains to the beneficiaries. “We prepared a list of those dealers and total 272 were suspended, while some were show-caused, penalised and arrested,” he said, adding that there is no problem in PDS anywhere in Bengal. “On Sunday, we have distributed ration to 14, 00, 1489 people. Every day we are increasing the reach,” he said. Earlier, on April 16, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced the removal of the secretary of the Bengal food and supplies department amid allegations that there are ration card-holders who had not received the full month’s allotment at one go to help them to survive amid lockdown crisis. Manoj Agarwal, a 1990-batch IAS officer, was replaced with P.A. Siddiqui, who had been serving as the finance department secretary. Agarwal has been sent to compulsory waiting, but sources in the state secretariat claimed that it was a routine transfer. However, his removal came at a time when opposition leaders slammed the government over the ration malpractices in the PDS allotment. When contacted Biswambhar Basu, General Secretary, of All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation (AIFPSDF), said, “Initially, there was some problem in the PDS allotment. Actions were taken against those who were involved in corruption. Not only were they penalised, but also forced to return the food grains, which they have kept unlawfully.” “There are 20, 271 ration dealers across the state and I am presently monitoring the distribution by personally inspecting all the areas. Presently, there is no problem in the distribution of ration in Bengal,” he added. On March 29, Biswambhar Basu of AIFPSDF had written a letter to West Bengal Food and Supplies Minister, Jyoti Priya Mallick mentioning that Councillors, Panchayat members and their supporters are creating mental pressure on the Fair Price Shops (FPS) dealers for subscribing rice and wheat from their shops on the pretext of relief. Meanwhile, Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar alleged that food supplies are not reaching the needy people as the PDS has been hijacked by the ruling party and the distribution of ration is being handled by the TMC leaders. BJP National Secretary Rahul Sinha said, “Already people are worried over their livelihood due to COVID-19 crisis and TMC leaders are taking control over the ration allotment system. We strongly condemned this and demand strong action against those who are involved in the corruption. I have alerted the Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar about the malpractices of PDS in Bengal.”
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