Rice for PDS being sold as branded rice at much higher prices

The Neyyattinkara police, on Friday, busted a major State-wide racket as part of which large quantities of rice intended for the Public Distribution System (PDS) was being siphoned off, treated, and sold as branded rice at prices 25 to 35 times higher than the original price.

15 arrested

Fifteen persons were arrested and more than 3,000 sacks rice were seized during simultaneous raids at three places in Thiruvananthapuram. The police operation, which had been on for the last three weeks, was headed by Y.R. Rustom, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Neyyattinkara, and culminated in raids at private godowns in Mukkola in Balaramapuram and at Amaravila and Inchivila at Parassala.

The raids, which began around 3 p.m., resulted in the recovery of four loads of rice, totalling about 3,000 sacks, and roughly over two lakh kg rice. Four lorries and the godowns too had been seized.

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Rustom said the modus-operandi of the racketeers was to siphon off PDS rice from wholesale storage centres before it reached ration dealers, transfer the same from the Food Corporation of India (FCI)-stamped sacks to private plastic sacks, and then transport them to processing centres in Palakkad and Perumbavur.

The rice, intended to be distributed to the public at Re.1 a kg, would then be treated, whitened, and packed into plastic sacks of major rice companies to be sold to private dealers across the State at prices ranging from Rs.25 to Rs.35 a kg.

“We were watching them for the past three weeks and were waiting for a chance to catch them in the process of transferring the rice from FCI sacks to their own sacks. We have arrested 15 persons, while the kingpins of the racket will be arrested shortly,” he said, adding that the police had also cast its net for the other players in the racket. Mr. Rustom said the same persons were involved in drawing off wheat from the PDS distribution network and passing them off as highly priced private brands.

The possibility of collusion by officials and ration dealers was being investigated.

Neyyattinkara Circle Inspector Anil Kumar, Sub Inspectors of Poovar, Vellarada, and Aryankode — Praveen, Biju, and Pradeep respectively — were part of the police team.