Monday, October 16, 2006

FCI rice worth crores being exported

FCI rice worth crores being exported: "NDTV has exposed a nexus of corruption, revealing how thousands or even lakhs of tonnes of rice are being illegally sourced from Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns and exported. The sting investigation was spread over two states, namely Gujarat and Karnataka.

Unlike PDS diversion, NDTV has traced this scandal to welfare schemes like food for work, particularly those that were begun after 2001. During this period, the NDA government had opened overflowing FCI godowns for programmes like the Sampoorna Gram Rozgar Yojna.

Most of the rice illegally sourced from south India and exported was non-basmati rice, mainly grown in Punjab and Haryana. Seeking to expose the nexus of corruption between FCI officials, agents and exporters, the NDTV investigation picked up the rice trail at Raichur town in north Karnataka.

The trail led the investigation to Veerbhadreshwara Agencies in Bellary, which was found to be trading in FCI rice. The exporter at Veerbhadreshwara Agencies agreed to an order of 5,000 tonnes of FCI rice, also explaining the modus operandi in use to siphon off the rice meant for the poor in villages.

In a conversation recorded on a hidden camera, Ram Kishan, a Raichur rice merchant, said: "You will get it from Gangavathy or Davengare. In Raichur, we don't have such quantities. We can't trade in it, if it is not in large quantities. In Raichur, we don't have that many villages."

"This stuff goes to the villages where work is done and half of it is stolen. You won't get the Andhra rice here. It is available in Mehboobnagar, but the deal is done in Hyderabad. If you give me an hour, I will get you the broker's number in Hyderabad," he added.

As the NDTV investigation went deeper, the extent of the network from Bellary to Hyderabad, to Raichur, to Kandla port in Gujarat (a major centre for export of this FCI rice) became clear. NDTV has exposed a network whose illegal business ran into thousands of crores of rupees. Several gained from rice from the FCI godowns, which was meant for the poor across India."

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