Chandigarh, Oct 3 : Punjab's Food and Civil Supplies department on Wednesday seized thousands of bags of rice from private rice mills in Punjab which had been diverted from the public distribution system (PDS) in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Vigilance teams from the department recovered 36,000 bags of unaccounted rice from four mills in the Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts.
"The Vigilance staff of the department found that 16,500 bags of rice at Shiva Rice Mill Phagwara, 3,600 bags of rice at Jai Shankar Rice Mill, Jalandhar, 14,100 bags of rice at Shiv Shankar Rice Mill Sarhali, Jalandhar and 1,600 bags at Sawtantarta Rice Mill Dhilwan, Kapurthala," a minister said here on Wednesday.
Revealing the shocking state of affairs, Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said the raids conducted by the department on Wednesday revealed that the unaccounted rice found in the godowns of four mills owe their origin to PDS of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
"More shocking is the fact that there were certain bags of UP and Bihar Food Supply bearing the lot number of Punjab 2017-18 rice which were delivered to FCI for the central pool. But after being sent to UP and Bihar for public distribution, they have been illegally circled back to Punjab," said the Minister.
"Had the miller not been caught, the same rice would have been recycled into the current marketing system," the minister said.
With the Punjab government keeping strict vigil on godowns and mills this season, it was found that those involved in the illegal racket had started keeping the rice stock in crude cattle sheds in villages.
"Such a case was unearthed at Ranipur village near Phagwara where 750 bags of rice were found stored in an animal shed. According to sources, this rice was off loaded from two trucks, about two days ago," Ashu said.
Fearing it to be the tip of the iceberg, the minister said that amassing thousands of bags of PDS rice is a clear indicator that it is not a small racket.
"In fact, a similar scam has been unearthed in Haryana as well and it is apprehended that it is a big inter-state racket with nexus going deep into the procurement and distribution system of the country," he pointed out.
Department teams had recovered nearly 1.10 lakh bags of unaccounted rice during raids conducted last week at mills in Ferozepur, Zira, Jalalabad and Moga.