By Neeraj Mohan
Loopholes in the Haryana custom milled rice policy, alleged lackadaisical approach of officials, police “inaction” and the powerful lobby of millers are among key reasons behind the pending Rs 344 crore rice recoveries to be made from 65 millers over the past 10 years.
The fraud predominantly affects the three largest parmal (non-basmati) paddy-producing districts of Haryana — Karnal (Rs 240 crore pending rice stock), Kurukshetra (Rs 67 crore) and Kaithal (Rs 37 crore). The field staff of the Haryana Food and Supplies Department has been struggling for a decade to recover the pending stock from the defaulters. The millers were deputed to procure paddy from farmers and return milled rice to the government, which was then to be added to the public distribution system.
With each procurement year, the list of defaulters continues to get longer, adding to the government’s financial woes. This year, seven more millers defaulted, the pending rice stock amounting to Rs 23.22 crore. Five of them are in Karnal (Rs 20.52 crore) and the rest in Kurukshetra (Rs 2.70 crore).
The major defaulters include Rajshree Rice Mill (Rs 17.82 crore), Tanishq Foods (Rs 12.56 crore), Divya Food (Rs 10.89 crore), RG Enterprises (Rs 8.73 crore), AR Agro (Rs 8.48 crore), Desh Raj and Rajeev Kumar (Rs 8.12 crore), Shakti Trading Company (Rs 8.02 crore), Saraswati Agro (Rs 5.54 crores), and Shri Krishan Kripa Food (Rs 5.12 crore). A total of 1,258 rice mills in Haryana are covered under the government’s CMR policy. Any mill that defaults once isn’t allowed fresh paddy stock, as per rules. According to the CMR agreement, every miller is obligated to deliver 67 per cent of the total allotted paddy to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) within a specified period. But despite FIRs, property attachment and some arrests, the efforts to recover the pending stock have proven futile as several millers have been exploiting legal avenues to evade accountability.
Gaps in the CMR policy, especially poor recovery rules and nominal security amount of 2.5 per cent of the value of the paddy allotted to a mill in the form of bank guarantee, have been contributing to the surge in rice scams.
Mukul Kumar, Director of Haryana Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department, said, “We have taken steps as per the current policy. FIRs have been registered against all defaulting millers and the procedure to attach their properties is under way.”
In Karnal, officials said 10 defaulting millers had been arrested so far, with most being released on bail and cases pending in various courts. The police have booked five more rice millers this year for not returning rice stock amounting to Rs 20.52 crores for the 2022-23 financial year. Of the five defaulters, Neeraj Rana of Rohit Trading Company, who failed to return Rs 4 crore worth of rice, was arrested, said an official.
This article has been republished from The Tribune.