A slew of irregularities came to light during surprise inspections conducted by E. V. Velu, Minister for Food, in some of the Public Distribution System (PDS) shops in Manapparai taluk in the district on Thursday.
The Minister hit the roads early in the day and spent over half-a-day going around several villages to inspect ration shops and to get the feedback of ration card holders on the efficacy of the PDS. He was accompanied by K. Shanmugam, Secretary, Food, Cooperation and Consumer Protection Department, who lead a team of officials including K. Rajaraman, Commissioner, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection, M. Veera Shanmuga Moni, Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation, and Collector T. Soundiah.
At his first stop at Anaiyur near Manapparai, villagers told the Minister that they were not getting their full entitlement of 20 kg of rice in full. They were issued only 10 or 15 kg first and told to draw the rest of their entitlement towards the end of the month “when more stocks arrive.” But most often they were not issued this remaining portion of their entitlement.
Mr. Velu instructed the Collector to ensure that card holders were issued their full quota unless the beneficiaries wanted to buy it in instalments in a month. A few villagers also reported that though they were not drawing sugar regularly, the ration shop keeper made entries in their cards showing that the commodity has been issued to them.
The Minister drove straight to the ration shop catering to the village, run by the Amaiyapuram Primary Agricultural Cooperative Society at Kalathupatti. Here, and at another shop at Manapparai town, the Minister found two youths being unofficially engaged in the shops for billing. Both the youths were paid Rs.1,500 each a month as remuneration from the salary of the official sales persons of the shops.
Bogus billing, shortage of stocks and irregularities in maintenance of stock registers were detected at some of the shops. The Minister also inspected the records at the office of the Taluk Supplies Officer at Manapparai to find that the A registers of the shops and Taluk Supplies Office had not been reconciled. He pulled up the district officials for failing to monitor the system properly. “Chief Minister M.Karnunanidhi was keen on ensuring that the benefits of the PDS reached the masses properly. Spend more time to monitor the system,” Mr.Velu told the officials.
When some women complained of rice being discoloured, the Minister told them that there was nothing wrong with the quality of the rice as such. The rice from Tamil Nadu tended to be slightly discoloured in comparison to the rice imported from other States. In some places, villagers complained of short supply in toor dhal.
Following a complaint from some locals, the officials inspected a retail rice shop at Manapparai town and found PDS rice being sold at the shop. The officials ordered the filing of a police case against the retailer. The officials also inspected a private rice mill in the town.
Later in the evening, Mr. Velu chaired a review meeting with officials at the Collectorate, which was attended by Transport Minister K. N. Nehru also.