Assam PDS anomalies may be a multi-crore scam

Anomalies in the public distribution system (PDS) in Assam may turn out to be a massive scandal involving hundreds of crores of rupees. Preliminary reports indicate that the amount of rice involved in the scam stood anywhere between 19 and 20 lakh tonnes.

While state chief secretary PC Sarma has already ordered a probe into the anomalies in all the 27 districts, the Centre, too, has sought a detailed report from the Assam Government. Sources said over 700 cases had already been registered in different districts concerning PDS irregularities in the past one year while 37 persons had been arrested in this connection.

The scam came to light in October last year after an NGO filed a series of RTI applications in the upper Assam districts of Golaghat, Jorhat and Sivasagar, compelling the state Government to first order a probe into the PDS in those three districts in December. This month, the chief secretary expanded the scope of the probe by extending it to all the 27 districts of the state.

Interestingly, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), the NGO, which has spearheaded this RTI movement against anomalies in the PDS, was conferred the Manjunath Shanmugam Integrity Award in the national capital last week. The NGO found out that in Golaghat district alone, over 10,000 quintals of rice meant for distribution under PDS had not reached the beneficiaries and instead found its way to the open market.

Reports from Nagaon district said over 13,000 tonnes of rice meant for distribution through the PDS in the district had gone missing in the recent months with sources in the Bureau of Investigation into Economic Offences suspecting that this huge quantity had found its way to the open market. This huge quantity of rice also includes rice meant for distribution under various schemes including Annapurna and Antyodaya meant to benefit people living below the poverty line.

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