VACB detects illegal diversion of subsidised items

The saying ‘if you want to profit, learn to please’ seems to hold true for certain ration wholesale dealers who ensure that Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection officials rarely inspect their depots.

For one, rationing inspectors in Attingal, reportedly like several others in their vocation elsewhere in Kerala, were so ‘pleased’ with a dealer of theirs that it was months since they had taken stock of the subsidised foodgrains, meant for sale to ration card holders at nominal rates ranging from Rs.2 to Rs.8, kept in his warehouse.

When Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) officials inspected the depot on Friday, they found the dealer had ‘hoarded’ 147.87 quintal of boiled rice, 72 quintal of raw rice, and 110.25 quintal of wheat.

The dealer and local rationing officials were at a loss to explain the surplus foodgrains found there.

The agency has demanded that they be booked under the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act.

The VACB had randomly chosen the depot for inspection after its informants reported mysterious night-time movement of trucks.

Investigators found that a bulk of the illegally diverted wheat ended up in factories in Tamil Nadu where it was processed and exported as labelled cattle feed priced at Rs.50 and upwards a kg.

Illegally diverted boiled and raw rice found their way to factories that made branded rice products and retailed them at Rs.38 and upwards a kg.

Fraud

Investigators said fraudulent public distribution system (PDS) retailers, working in tandem with wholesale distributors and corrupt supervisors, even used ration cards of recently deceased persons and fudged entries in daily sales ledgers to illegally divert foodgrains and kerosene for commercial use.

(Subsidised kerosene retailed to ration cardholders at Rs.14.50 a litre fetched four times its price in the black market). Investigators said the rationing system was mostly on paper.

The sales records at several PDS retail outlets ‘curiously’ showed that 90 per cent of ration card holders had availed themselves of their quota of fuel and grain on the same day, which invariably fell at the end of every month when rationing inspectors routinely arrived to ‘verify’ stock.

In April, the VACB had informed the government that at least 60 per cent of subsidised kerosene and grains meant for public distribution was illegally diverted for commercial purposes.

The racketeers had seriously undermined the basic fuel and food security guaranteed by the State’s public distribution system (PDS), its report said.

Circle Inspector R. Baiju Kumar and Assistant Supply Officer Mohana Chandran headed the district end of the ongoing State-wide checks.