CHENNAI: In this interview with DT Next, Food and Cooperation Secretary J Radhakrishnan says neighbouring Tiruvallur district is the hub of smuggling rice outside Tamil Nadu, and explains the smugglers’ modus operandi and the steps taken by the department to nab them:
Why are there so many cases rice smuggling reported in Tiruvallur of late?
Tiruvallur has emerged as the transit point for smuggling rice. Recently, a private rice mill there was raided and a large amount of PDS rice was seized. To prevent smuggling, three checkpoints have been set up at Ponpadi, Uthukottai and Elavur. Also, 16 cut roads leading to Andhra Pradesh are under surveillance. Smugglers who used trains to smuggle rice have now started using waterways. Through the Pazhayar lake, they smuggle rice via the sea to reach Andhra Pradesh.
Does the Civil Supplies CID have enough manpower? Why are so many cases reported now?
After this regime took over, two divisions of Civil Supplies CID were formed and the strength has increased. There now are one DGP, four SPs, 12 DSPs, 24 Inspectors, 57 SIs and 252 other officials. We are also using intelligence inputs from the revenue department. Since May, 11,008 cases were filed and 11,121 persons were arrested. Also, 113 persons were filed under Goondas Act, and 77,485 quintals of rice and 2,288 vehicles were seized. As the screws are tightened, more and more cases were reported.
What is the modus operandi of the smugglers?
They collect small quantities of rice from the public, and repack and send it to rice mills or smuggle it. If caught while smuggling in trains, no one claims ownership; if not caught, they take it into Andhra Pradesh. People should realise that the State government is providing rice for free by providing subsidy and understand the importance of the scheme. They should not sell PDS rice to smugglers.
What plans does the government have to improve facilities at ration shops?
The government has come out with plans to construct new ration shops on standard designs. To move the shops into own buildings, it has been decided to set up 75 shops in each district in government-owned buildings in the first phase. I have also instructed officials to improve the ambience of ration shops just like establishing small parks and also to improve facilities not just for the public but also for the staff.