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Foodgrain ‘scam’ hits Meghalaya

Officials said the rice was procured by FCI, Shillong but the owner of the warehouse had repackaged the rice to be supplied to the Assam Rifles. File Photo.  

An alleged foodgrain scam involving the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has added to the embarrassment of the Meghalaya government facing flak for poor management of the COVID-19 crisis.

Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma has denied his government’s involvement in the “scam” detected in adjoining Assam a few days ago. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a constituent of his coalition government, and the Opposition Congress, have demanded a probe.

NGOs in the State have also slammed the government for shielding the supplier-official nexus and giving a long rope to “tainted companies” feeding off nutritional programmes meant for children, young girls and mothers to fight malnutrition, maternal and infant mortality.

The police in Assam’s Kamrup district had last week seized an estimated 1 lakh bags of rice, each weighing 50 kg, from a warehouse in Boko, west of Guwahati. A case was accordingly registered under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code entailing imprisonment up to seven years.

Officials said the rice was procured by FCI, Shillong but the owner of the warehouse had repackaged the rice to be supplied to the Assam Rifles.

“The quantity of rice seized is huge and we have written to the agency concerned to know if they are the owner of the rice bags. Their response is awaited,” the district’s Deputy Superintendent of Police (Headquarters), Kalyan Kumar Pathak said.

Mr. Sangma insisted the rice bags seized had no connection with the public distribution system (PDS) in Meghalaya. He said the State had already received its quota of PDS rice for May and June.

“We have no idea if rice belonging to Meghalaya is lying in Assam,” he added.

But he said he has sought a clarification from the Social Welfare Department although the Minister concerned, Kyrmen Shylla dismissed the department’s involvement in the alleged scam.

“The diversion of rice is unacceptable. The matter warrants a probe by a high-level committee as this is a huge violation of the rights of the people of Meghalaya,” Congress MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh said.

“The rice was meant for the poor. If it a case of diversion, the culprits should be arrested,” the BJP’s State vice-president, Bernard Marak said.

The Civil Society Women’s Organisation and Thma U Rangli Juki, two NGOs focusing on human rights and women’s issues, called for the social auditing of the supplementary nutrition programme. They sniffed corruption in the State’s Social Welfare Department as the same Assam-based private firm involved in the rice bag “scam” was involved in underhand deals 10 years ago.


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Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 8:22:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/foodgrain-scam-hits-meghalaya/article34821956.ece

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