Kotkapura (Punjab): Rice mill booked for cheating

By Ruchika M Khanna & Balwant Garg

In the first major action against those buying cheap paddy from outside Punjab and/or from farmers without paying levies this season, the Kotkapura police have registered a case of cheating against the firm owned by a “high profile” rice miller, without naming him in the FIR.

It took a lot of effort by senior leaders of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and junior officers of the Food and Supply Department and Markfed to get the case registered.

Though the scam was unearthed yesterday, the FIR against the owner of the Victoria Food Rice Mills was registered today, but without naming him. The case was registered under Section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act and Section 420 of the IPC.

During a search operation on the mill premises by Markfed officials, over 20,000 bags of paddy (each containing 37.5 kg grains), over and above his allocation of 49,598 bags, were recovered.

According to top officials in the Food and Supply Department, it is still being verified if these excess bags were that of the paddy purchased by the mill owners from farmers without paying levies, or if the mill had smuggled cheaper paddy (bought at rates lower than the MSP) from outside the state to shell it and replace it with the paddy purchased by the government, which would then be sold in the market at higher rates.

About 70,000 bags of paddy were found at the rice mill although Markfed has allocated only 49,598 bags to it so far. Against an MSP of Rs 2,203 per quintal, paddy from outside the state (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) is purchased at Rs 1,400-1,500 per quintal, thus ensuring a profit of Rs 700-800 per quintal.

Officials in the Food and Supply Department told The Tribune that a complaint was received that the rice mill authorities had been indulging in unfair practices for the past some years, following which a search was conducted.

“We are also investigating if some commission agents had purchased paddy at various mandis near the mill without paying levies,” said a senior official.

Markfed District Manager Sukhjinder Kaur told The Tribune that further action against the mill would be taken after investigations into the source of these excess 20,000 paddy bags.

This action against the mill comes two days after the Secretary (Food) wrote to the state Vigilance Bureau, asking it to verify the excess arrival of paddy on Diwali, when labourers were not present in mandis and the procurement was minimal.

On Diwali day, 4.70 lakh metric tonne (LMT) paddy had arrived in state mandis. As the Vigilance sleuths started investigating, the paddy arrivals dropped to 2.62 LMT yesterday and 2.29 LMT today.

This article has been republished from The Tribune.

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