Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, August 21
Claiming that the “mafia” in the Food and Supply Department of Punjab is bigger than any other “mafia” in the state, the AAP government has set its target on “cleaning up the mess created by the previous governments”, said Food and Supply Minister Lal Chand Kataruchak.
Even as the government upped its ante against the Opposition Congress for the “scams” in the Food and Supply Department, including the tender allotment scam that unfolded in the previous government’s tenure, a roadmap has been made to break the nexus between officers of the department and contractors, Kataruchak added.
Assets of absconding officers to be seized
Food and Supply Minister Lal Chand Kataruchak says the government is coming out with a policy that will provide for attaching all assets of absconding officers accused of having caused losses to the state government.
The state government has initiated the process to physically inspect all stocks of foodgrain lying in the godowns, CAP storage and open storages, and compare it with the records of stored foodgrains to get an idea of shortage caused by embezzlement of grains.
Regular inspections of mandis, stocks lying in godowns (owned by foodgrain procurement agencies as well as private) will be done. But the inspecting teams will be from a district other than the district where the raid/ inspection is to be conducted.
“The name of the unit/place where the inspection is to be done will be given to the inspecting teams just two hours before the inspection. This will ensure that no one is able to alert the owners/in-charges of premises to be inspected,” Kataruchak said.
Each year, foodgrains worth over Rs 60,000 crore are procured in Punjab, of which paddy worth Rs 35,712 crore is procured by the government. “But at each and every level of procurement, there seems to be a deep nexus, which our government is trying to break. For this, we are increasing competition between the rice mills by allowing more mills to open in the state. Approval to open 300 rice shelling units has been given, which will be operational by the time milling starts. Against the policy of previous governments, where the millers’ proximity to officials or the minister was the main consideration for allotting the paddy, often more than their milling capacity in order to benefit them, our government will allot paddy based on capacity of the mill and its vicinity to the mandis,” said the Food and Supply Minister. With this, 4,400 rice mills would be operational in the state in the ongoing kharif season, he added.
The government is also linking the milling capacity of each rice mill with the power consumption of these mills during the time of milling. “Teams of food inspectors will be deputed for the purpose. If they have more paddy or rice than allotted for milling, we will get to know if they smuggled cheaper rice (meant for PDS) to other states, and are giving it here on the MSP,” said Kataruchak.
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