Confederation of Nagaland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CNCCI) alleges rice scam, demands CBI probe

The Confederation of Nagaland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CNCCI) has demanded a thorough CBI probe into the availability of cheap rice from unknown sources in Nagaland and non-transparent process of awarding contracts for transport and handling of rice of Priority Households (PHHs), Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Tide Over schemes.
Following frequent reports of rice polishing and packaging of public distribution system (PDS) in local media and complaints from the business community, the CNCCI in a press release stated that it took cognizance of the matter and decides to look into it.
The trade body said it was shocked to learn that many PHH rice transporters to districts had not been allocated October 2022 rice for transportation to various districts despite the money having been deposited to the Food & Civil Supplies (F&CS) Department for lifting PHH rice meant for the poorest section of Nagas.

It accused the F&CS Department of misinforming that the beneficiaries had received their due allotment at the same time, but contradicting itself by stating that the money has been refunded to the transporters. But, the CNCCI claimed that it had sufficient proof that the transporters had not received the money from the department.
More importantly, according to CNCCI, the bigger question was if the money had been refunded, where was the rice, as it was not transported to PDS centres by the contracted transporters, unless the poor beneficiaries across Nagaland came to Dimapur FCI depot to take their rice. Putting together all the findings and response from FCS department, CNCCI feared that the rice meant for the poor section of the state might have found its way to rice polishing and repackaging units and then to the retail market. No wonder, the trade body said rice import by the business community had gone down drastically while the consumption of rice had increased, as per retail and wholesale market with ever increasing population.

Surprisingly, it observed that the retailers and wholesalers in Nagaland that produced meagre rice, and with dwindling import of rice, got rice at cheaper rates in Dimapur through few rice mill owners who polished rice and traders (repackaging), as compared to rice imported from outside. This had led to almost monopoly of rice market, which was against the principles of the CNCCI and the business community of the state. CNCCI said it was deeply concerned that poor beneficiaries might be purchasing their own subsidised rice from the market at a higher price, which was totally unethical. The F&CS Department had also, in response to its query, replied that selling PDS rice in the market was illegal.
Hence, CNCCI sternly warned that any business establishment found selling, polishing and packaging PDS rice would not be spared and stringent action taken against them. It also directed all district chambers of commerce to be strictly vigilant against these unethical practices.
CNCCI asked the department why the tendering process for PHH rice, AAY and Tide Over schemes for majority of the beneficiaries had been inconsistent and non-transparent as AAY and Tide Over schemes had never undergone open tendering process. It reasoned that this was necessary to streamline the market for the business community and provide an opportunity for the unemployed youth to float tenders for all the three schemes.
It said the FCS Department had invited open tender only for the PHH scheme. Hence, asserting that a piecemeal step was not acceptable, the CNCCI demanded that the tendering process for PHH be immediately called off and invite tenders for all the three schemes simultaneously, warning that it would not hesitate to express its displeasure across the state.
CNCCI said it believed that this could be one of the largest scandals in the history of Nagaland and even in the entire nation. It also made it clear to the FCS Department that it would not remain mute spectator, but protect the business community and the public, and bring the matter to a logical conclusion.

This article has been republished from The Nagaland Post.

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