The Vigilance Bureau today launched an inquiry into an alleged paddy scam where nearly 4.7 lakh metric tonne (LMT) of paddy arrived in several grain markets in Punjab on Diwali. The inquiry aims to find out how much of the paddy arrival was bogus.
Director, VB, Varinder Kumar has set up 44 teams to probe the matter. The teams have seized records regarding the arrival of paddy before and on Diwali from several grain markets. Sources said the VB was also seeking records from commission agents (arhtiyas) so that it could tally it with the data in the grain markets.
“It is an enormous task. The seizure of records is just the first step. The entries will have to be cross-checked with the record of previous days,” said a Vigilance official.
The impact of the alleged scam is far-reaching. Under the procurement process, Punjab buys produce from farmers on behalf of the Food Corporation of India, which comes under the Central government. Later, the state claims payment from the Centre. The allegations of bogus paddy purchase may cause problem in the process.
The inquiry was ordered after a complaint was filed by Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, Secretary, Food and Supply Department on Monday.
In his complaint, Gurkirat said: “The pattern of paddy arrival in the past few days points to serious discrepancies. An unprecedented arrival of 4.7 LMT has been booked by market committee officials on the Diwali day whereas such an arrival has never been recorded on the festival day in the past since farmers are aware that staff, labour and arhtiyas are unavailable (on such days). This clearly points to an attempt by unscrupulous elements to recycle paddy and book fake purchases.”
He also pointed out that a substantial number of mandis had been closed across the state, including in border districts of Sangrur, Ropar, Pathankot, Hoshiarpur, Ferozepur, Fazilka and Muktsar, as there were unconfirmed reports of attempts to get paddy from neighbouring states into Punjab. However, officials of several market committees continued to accept paddy on subsequent days in closed mandis, he stressed.
Talking to The Tribune, Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said generally the paddy arrival dips on the Diwali day. “It is strange that the arrival had increased by 70,000 MT over the previous day, prompting the government to get the record verified,” he said.
However, farmers say that the arrivals remained high on Diwali due to late harvesting.
This article has been republished from The Tribune.