Rice sent to different states as relief material is allegedly being pilfered from private rice mills in Habibpur of Nadia’s Ranaghat, West Bengal. Locals complained last Friday they saw a lorry loaded with rice sent by the Centre inside the Srikrishna Rice Mill in Habibpur, Ranaghat. There was widespread tension throughout the area even as locals apprehended the truck and began a sit-in protest before the mill.
In a video widely circulated via social media, rice bags are seen loaded in the truck confiscated by the locals inside Sri Krishna Rice Mill in Habibpur while, inside the godown, there is a place where other bags have been emptied. Speaking in Bangla in the video, a person can be heard questioning why the bags needed to be emptied inside the godown.
The imprint on the rice bags shows these are part of a consignment sent from the Centre to West Bengal. There is a logo of the Transparent India Mission on other bags to which the warehouse owner was transferring the rice.
Upon receiving the news, the BDO of Ranaghat 1 block and the MP of Ranaghat went to the spot. The situation returned to normal when the BDO assured an administrative inquiry.
Ranaghat MP Jagannath Sarkar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged this smacked of corruption by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). He alleged that the smugglers were misusing FCI orders to buy rice from New Mansa Mata Foods in Burdwan and sell it at the Srikrishna Rice Mill. He alleged that spurious stock of the cereal was being used to adulterate quality government supply in the godown, which was why the rice bags were being emptied in this warehouse.
Reacting to the allegation, the TMC posted a series of tweets on 2 May. She dismissed the allegations and counter-attacked the BJP, labelling the disclosure as a case of corruption of the opposition party and “fake news” by the media!
The TMC tweeted: “1) Sri Krishna Rice Mill is registered with GoWB for PDS supply, it will naturally have rice for PDS supply.
2) If rice mills want to meet sudden demand due to the #COVID19 pandemic, it is natural for them to source from 3rd parties.”
Making a thread, the party ruling West Bengal added two more points: “3) A rice gunny bag stolen from 2019-20 PDS or FCI supplied, cannot have 2018-19 markings as in this case
4) You can’t comprehend the harm inflicted on society by spreading fake news
In your zeal to discredit GoWB, you forget to verify even the most basic facts”
The TMC’s assertion, of course, flies in the face of what is obvious in the video above. The tweets do not explain why sourcing the cereal from a third party would require mixing the grains from two different sources in what appears a clear case of adulteration.
Certifying West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as a satyanveshi (seeker of truth), the TMC became a butt of jokes after the tweets. While supporters of the TMC attacked the BJP on the basis of their party’s ‘clarification’, both the BJP and others not convinced by the explanation asked if what the tweets say was the truth, why the official website of the state did not carry the same clarification.
Allegations of ration corruption have surfaced in West Bengal since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID0 in the state. The opposition camp claims that the rice and flour dealers allocated by the state government for rationing were not paying their dues. This allegation was so credible that the chief minister had to announce she was removing the state food secretary.
After the scandal of rice distribution surfaced on Friday, the Banerjee-censored media of West Bengal reported rice had been recovered also from the BJP’s party office in Jalpaiguri in the midst of the opposition party’s constant allegations against the TMC over the looting of ration rice. Two people were arrested.
The BJP’s Jalpaiguri district president laughed it off, saying, “It is true that we had rented the house (from where rice was recovered) for John Barla’s election work during the last Lok Sabha election. But after the vote, we left the rented property.”
Explaining the fact that some BJP flags were recovered from the house too, the party district president said the workers of the organisation might have forgotten to remove every flag from the location.”
Meanwhile, in a war of letters between Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and Chief Minister Banerjee, the latter claimed that West Bengal had not yet received the rice supply from the Centre, which strangely the TMC failed to mention in its tweets while admitting the state government was indeed procuring rice from third parties.
The chief minister claimed further that her government had distributed foodgrains among 9 crore people of the state, defying the TMC’s claim that their stock was not enough due to which they had to source foodgrains from third parties.
A day after the Nadia incident, an agitated crowd gathered before a ration dealer’s house and attempted to set the property on fire while they could damage only the periphery.