Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Indian grain robbery

NDTV exposes great Indian grain robbery: "Last year India exported a whopping four million tonnes of rice. And the export industry is buzzing with stories of the great rice theft from godowns of the Food Corporation of India scattered across the country. The rice, meant for the poorest of the poor, makes its way to several ports via a closely guarded web of officials, agents and exporters.

Our first stop was North Karnataka's Raichur town and Gopal a big rice broker. His employees are helpful. They say they don't trade in FCI maal but can put us on to those who do. "Veerbhadreshwara Agencies, Bellary. They trade in FCI maal," said one of the employee.

As the NDTV team walk out, they meet Gopal's father Ram Kishan, the big seth. He opens up when told that we have a big export order of 5,000 tonnes. He explains how the FCI deal works. 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."

It is getting clear that this is a nationwide phenomenon. The next link in the chain is Vijay of Veerbhadreshwara Agencies. He is away in Bangkok so we speak to his brother Vineet at his office in Bellary town. When Vineet hears we need 5000 tonnes or 313 trucks of FCI rice he immediately gets down to business, checking freight charges to Kandla.

Then the bargaining begins. He quotes a price of Rs 1,021 for a quintal, showing us his last deal with a Delhi based rice exporter who has a godown in Kandla. After visiting several markets and rice traders NDTV's team finally reached Gangavathy, which is supposed to be a major hub FCI rice diversion. What was unearthed is a huge network of traders and exporters spread across the country.

As the NDTV investigation went deeper, the extent of the network from Bellary to Hyderabad, to Raichur, to Kandla port in Gujarat became clear. The team then headed to the port of Kandla in Gujarat. At an exporter's godown the team said they want to buy 5000 tonnes of Punjab rice, a non-basmati variety grown only in Punjab and Haryana."

No comments: