Repeated huge hauls of smuggled PDS rice hint at govt official-smuggling nexus

The seizure of nearly 182 tonnes of PDS rice worth over Rs 10.3 lakh on the Vellore Bengaluru National Highway between January and October this year, despite prolonged lockdown, reveals official connivance in it. Officials sources said, without that, it would be impossible to siphon off such huge quantities.
Rice hoarded in a house in Vellore
Rice hoarded in a house in Vellore

Vellore

Following the seizures, Vellore Collector A Shanmuga Sundaram threatened smugglers with stringent action, including jail terms, official sources added. Seizures in September-October alone amounted to 9.5 tonnes worth Rs 5.35 lakh. A total of 5 lorries, 32 two-wheelers were seized and 2 house owners in whose residences the rice bags were stacked have been booked, while another was arrested, Shanmuga Sundaram said. What irks residents is the increase in smuggling of rice in huge quantities by road. Earlier, smaller rice bags – hidden in bushes near rail tracks - would be loaded onto trains at either Arakkonam or Jolorpet stations when the trains stopped for signals.
“Such huge quantities can only be smuggled from godowns which is not possible without official connivance,” accepted a local ruling party strongman. When the government has resorted to smart card scanning for consumers to receive their monthly rations and have even switched over to biometric machines how is it possible to engage in such large scale smuggling without official help, questioned locals. Though five persons were arrested till date, they are mostly lorry drivers. No mastermind of this smuggling has been held. So far, only one person was detained under the Goondas Act for this offence.
Social activist GS Kumar said, “it is well known that in places bordering Andhra, women come to individual houses seeking to buy rice and housewives usually sell them ration rice for Rs 9 to Rs 10 a kilo. Thus housewives make a small profit while the purchased rice is taken to a common spot, converted to bigger loads and sent to Andhra Pradesh from Pernambut.” “Fair price shop salesmen do not complain as they themselves shortchange consumers by slightly pressing on the scale while issuing rice,” said activist J Krishnaveni of Gudiyattam.

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