Mancherial/Kumram Bheem-Asifabad: The diversion of rice, meant for the public distribution scheme (PDS) and supplied to families belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL), is going on unabated in Mancherial and Kumram Bheem Asifabad districts, following heavy demand for rice in the neighboring State of Maharashtra. Some greedy traders are indulging in this menace to make a fast buck.
The menace of PDS rice smuggling is thriving in these two districts even as the government is trying to control the menace by taking a slew of measures including the implementation of biometric system to supply rice to beneficiaries. The efforts of civil supplies, revenue and police department are apparently failing to wipe out the diversion. Consequently, the objective of the scheme is not being achieved and the initiative became a boon for a few.
According to information provided by the Police department, Mancherial district has registered 35 cases of diversion of PDS rice and 65 persons were arrested for their involvement in the offence from January to September of 2021 As many as 1,057 quintals of rice were seized and the value was assessed to be Rs 13.70 lakh. The district saw 100 cases in which 243 persons were booked in 2020.
Meanwhile, Kumram Bheem Asifabad district, known as the hub of the PDS rice smuggling, recorded 86 cases from January to October of 2021 as against 74 cases and 73 cases reported in 2020 and 2019, respectively. A total of 5,760 quintals of rice was seized in the past three years. The value of the grains was estimated to be Rs 1.01 crore.
The businessmen procure the rice from small-time traders of rural parts and certain dealers of fair price shops of both Mancherial and Kumram Bheem Asifabad districts for somewhere between Rs 6 and Rs 10 per kilogram. They store the bags in secret ‘stock points’ in Hajipur, Rebbena, Kagaznagar, Bheemini and Asifabad towns.
They then illegally transport the rice from the stock points to Maharashtra by trucks, trolleys and vans, by bribing officials concerned including policemen on the way and at inter-state check posts situated on the way to the neighboring state and inter-state borders at night.
Connectivity comes handy
In the latest trend, the rice is being shipped to Maharashtra via not only Kumram Bheem Asifabad district, but also through Chennur and Kaleshwaram of Jayashankar Bhupalpally district, with the bridges constructed across the Godavari at Kannepalli and Sironcha and across Pranahita at Arjunagutta village in Kotapalli mandal of Mancherial district. It is learned that the offenders are taking this road as there are no check posts on this route.
Protection money to cops
Sources say the smugglers pay monthly protection money to police, revenue and civil supplies officials between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh each per month. They sell the rice to traders of Maharashtra at Rs 20 per kilogram. This means they are making a killing by diverting PDS rice. Many of them become millionaires by venturing into this field in a short period and later enter into politics to protect their ill-gotten assets.
When asked, Kumram Bheem Asifabad district Superintendent of Police (Administration) YVS Sudheendra said that a special focus was laid on curbing the menace of smuggling of PDS rice. He stated that the PDS Act was being invoked against the habitual perpetrators. He added that vigil was intensified on the key routes used for diverting the grains at night and steps were being taken to clamp down the diversion.
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