Nine persons arrested for hoarding, black marketing

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday said the State government would distribute the one lakh tonnes of rice under the Centre’s Open Market Scheme through ration shops and Supplyco outlets at Rs.19.50 a kg as part of its attempts to tackle the inexplicable rise in prices of the commodity in the State.

Accordingly, an additional 15 kg a month would be available through Supplyco outlets at Rs.19.50 a kg for all categories of cardholders.

Those coming under the APL category would get an additional 10 kg a month through ration shops at Rs.19.50 a kg.

The additional quantity of rice that would be distributed through these two outlets would be over and above the current 20 kg available through Supplyco at various rates, Mr. Chandy said.

Exaggerated reports

The Chief Minister alleged that the Opposition LDF had fallen for the exaggerated media reports that 1,500 tonnes of rice had been set ablaze by the Food Corporation of India authorities. According to an FCI report, only 1.594 tonnes of rice unfit for consumption had been set ablaze. He said he had discussed the matter with Union Minister of State for Food K.V. Thomas on the basis of the media reports.

Mr. Chandy said he had in his possession the FCI report and was willing to share it with C. Divakaran, who had demanded a probe. He said the FCI had decided to destroy 43 sacks of rice unfit for consumption as there were no takers for it even after following the mandatory tender procedures. Even the State government refused to lift such quality rice.

Isaac’s claim denied

The Chief Minister refuted T.M. Thomas Isaac’s contention in the Assembly that the government had ignored a report of the vigilance wing of the Civil Supplies Department warning about the impending artificial scarcity in December. Mr. Chandy said the government did not have such a report in its possession.

Similarly, there was no basis for the Opposition’s allegation that the price of rice in the open market had gone beyond Rs.50 a kg. According to the figures made available by the Economics and Statistics Department, the price ranged between Rs.28.40 to Rs.35.46. But even this was on the higher side, Mr. Chandy said.

In reply to a question, the Chief Minister said that nine persons had been arrested so far on charges of hoarding and black marketing.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob later said that the Civil Supplies Department had conducted 17,945 raids since October.

Of the 2,436 ration shops raided 1,219 were fined for malpractices. Action had been taken against 74 wholesale distributors out of the 150 raided.