Ignoring the fact that 194.6 million Indians are undernourished (15 per cent of the population) and a sizeable chunk of poor people survive by eating rotis, Punjab's food grain procurement agencies are busy kicking the stomach of these hungry Indians by way of corruption and siphoning off funds.
While the state government has been wilfully diverting the funds meant for procurement of grains from farmers, the officials of procurement agencies, such as Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited (PAIC), have been physically destroying the stocks to cover up their misdeeds.
Sample this: A PAIC inspector, Ikbal Singh Brar, was caught red-handed on camera irrigating wheat bags in Ajnala, Amritsar last month. All this was done to add weight to the wheat as the stocks after procuring from the farmers are illegally sold in the market. The corrupt employees either make the wheat wet or replace the stock with rotten stock.
In the dock for siphoning off over Rs 12,000 crore - the money meant to procure the grains - the Punjab government has confessed that it diverted nearly Rs 900 crore from the procurement money. This was admitted by none other than the state's minister for food and civil supplies, Adesh Partap Kairon, who is the son-in-law of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. He said that the money was diverted to feed Badal's ambitious Atta-Dal scheme under which free pulses and wheat flour was distributed to the poor.
|Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal.|
Former Punjab leader of the Opposition and senior Congress leader Sunil Jakhar, who has registered a criminal complaint against the government for alleged food grain scam, says that the scam has been in operation for the last six years when the food grain stocks were last verified.
"The scam is committed in three ways. One, by theft of the procured stock. The corrupt officials and officers sell the stocks illegally and try to complete it by putting water on stored wheat stock. At times the stocks are knowingly left uncovered, letting the rain gods add more weight to the stocked wheat. Misappropriation of funds meant to procure the stocks from farmers is the second method which plagues the system. The farmers are committing suicide as they do not get timely payments from the government. They raise loans from illegal moneylenders. The procurement agencies also commit various frauds in the name of transportation and other charges," says Sunil Jakhar.
As the issue of Rs 12,000-crore food grain scam has now assumed political significance, the party in Opposition, the Congress, in order to exploit the issue in the forthcoming Assembly elections, has constituted a high-level committee of senior leaders to monitor the wheat procurement process in the state.
The committee will monitor the procurement process in over 500 mandis (procurement centres) across the state. This will be followed up with review meetings about the procurement in all the 117 Assembly segments.
Captain Amarinder Singh says that the food grain scam may just be the proverbial tip of an iceberg as the Akali-BJP government has survived only on deceit and fraud during the last nine years.
"What's evident is that the state government has either raised the loans against non-existing stocks, or it has not bought the stocks after raising the loans from the banks and diverted and embezzled all this money," observed Captain Amarinder while adding that this is a fit case of cheating, fraud and embezzlement.
According to the former Punjab CM, this is the reason why the farmers were not getting their due payment on time even after their produce is taken away by the state's purchasing agencies.
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has categorically said that not a single grain of food stock was missing and all stock had been monitored and found in order by relevant agencies.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)