N.J. Nair

Following complaints of diversion of rice

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Government has devised a system to prevent diversion and black marketeering of rice allotted by the Union Government under the food-for-work scheme. The new system was worked out following complaints that the allotted rice was being diverted by middlemen to wholesalers and flour mills. The Union Government annually supplies rice to the tune of Rs.36 crore for the labourers engaged under the scheme.

A lion's share of the allotment was being channelised from the Food Corporation of India warehouse to the depots of the wholesale rice dealers and flour mills with the consent of the officials concerned, the labour contractors and a section of the civic chiefs by altering the documents. Those involved in the deal managed to secure around Rs.30 crore by selling the rice in the open market.

Minimum wage

The minimum daily wage of a worker was fixed at Rs.125 per day as per the scheme. After giving a fixed quantity of rice at Rs.6.2 per kg, the remaining would be paid in cash. Most of the works under the scheme were executed by contractors who recruited labourers from the neighbouring States, mostly Tamil Nadu. The contractors used machines to save on expenses and the migrant labourers refused to accept rice in lieu of wages. Hence, the contractors often joined hands with the officials and politicians to divert the stock from the source to the market at a higher price. The diverted stock was sold in the market at Rs.15 and upwards per kg under different brand names. According to the new system, the Civil Supplies Corporation would lift the stock from FCI depots and sell it through Maveli Stores on a no-loss no-profit basis after making the payment to the local bodies for disbursing the wages.