After two inspections in more than two months’ time, the Haryana government on Wednesday admitted that a fraud of at least ₹90 crore has been detected in the paddy procurement process.
Farmers had cried foul after rice millers claimed that they had procured more paddy than the 64-lakh-tonnes target allotted to them this season.
Farmers had said that the millers bought cheap paddy from neighbouring states as their produce was still in the mandis (grain markets).
Stating that the formal inspection and physical verification, which was subsequent to informal verification, was now over, food and civil supplies additional chief secretary PK Das said more than 42,500 tonnes of paddy was found to be short as per the records and stocks of the rice mills.
“This shortage meant that either the millers had charged from government on some bogus paddy purchase or sold the rice milled by them to someone else other than the government procurement agencies,” he added.
67kg rice is milled from a quintal of paddy.
FRAUD AND METHODOLOGY
After paddy farmers raised hue and cry, the state government had sent 300 teams of officials to all 1,304 rice mills in the state for physical verification.
The teams verified the mills’ purchase from farmers, produce given to FCI or other agencies, paddy stocked at all sites of the mills as well as the rice milled by them.
Das said shortage of 42,500 tonnes of paddy has been detected at 1,207 mills.
The maximum shortage of more than 13,000 tonnes was found in 284 mills in Karnal — the home district of chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar — followed by Kurukshetra where the shortage at 236 mills was over 10,000 tonnes.
At 185 mills in Ambala district, the shortage was of about 9,400 tonnes, at 168 mills in Fatehabad, it was over 2,200 tonnes and at 115 mills in Kaithal, it was over 1,400 tonnes, Das said.
Das said while show-cause notices were being issued to all defaulting mills, seeking reply from them in three to four days, ₹90 crore would be charged from them.
“I would also discuss with the superiors regarding blacklisting them. It would also be decided whether to register criminal cases against them or not,” he added.
THE WAY FORWARD
The department would now undertake the very first leg of the procurement exercise — transportation of paddy from mandis to mills — with registered commission agents and videograph the entire process. This was earlier left to the millers.
“The trucks deployed for transportation of paddy will be equipped with GPS so that their movement can be monitored,” Das said.
INLD allege involvement of officials
Reacting to the development, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhay Chautala said the millers could not have committed the scam without conniving with government officials. Demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe in the matter, he also alleged that the farmers were cheated on the pretext of moisture and paid about ₹200 per quintal less than the MSP of ₹1,835.