food and civil supply punjab | two rice mills sealed
After waiting for many months for Punjab rice millers to deliver rice after custom milling, the food supplies department has finally begun a crackdown on defaulting millers. This has come amidst reports that a large amount of rice meant for the Central pool has already been sold in the open market.
Two Barnala rice mills have been sealed within a couple of days of detecting the shortage of rice during physical verification, immediately after expiry of long extended extension for the rice delivery time on January 31. But the action is too little and too late.
Rice worth more than Rs 900 crore is still to be delivered by Punjab rice millers even after ten months of the first expiry of the rice delivery time on March 31, 2010. Rice millers have alleged that some dubious elements amongst them have sold off a large quantity of rice of 2009-2010 crop in the open market. Punjab secretary, food and civil supplies, DS Grewal admitted that 5.62 lakh metric tonne (MT) rice is yet to be delivered by rice millers across the state but denied any complaints of rice being sold in the open market.
However, rice millers have a different story to tell. Rice worth crores has already been sold in the open market in Barnala, Sangrur and Mansa areas. Sources said that more than 20 rice millers alone in Barnala and Sangrur districts have sold rice in the open market, which was meant to be delivered to government agencies after custom milling. Ruling party politicians are allegedly lending a helping hand to defaulting rice millers to save their skin, said a rice miller on condition of anonymity. Barnala district food supplies controller Nirmal Singh said a rice mill at village Chunga has been sealed and an FIR has been lodged against a miller for falling short of the requisite rice during physical verification.
Demanding strict action against defaulter rice mills, farmer union BKU Dakonda vice-president Manjit Singh Dhaner said the state government should realize the immediate delivery of undelivered rice. Punjab rice millers association president Tarsem Saini said rice could not be delivered fully due to varied reasons like moisture content and space problem especially in Bathinda and Mansa. He said association is for all millers to deliver rice at the earliest.