Pradeep Pattanayak

Villagers of several villages under Lamataput block in Koraput district on Saturday met the block development officer (BDO) to lodge a complaint that the rice they are receiving under the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) is mixed with plastic rice.  

Lamataput block residents are not alone in their predicament. Such complaints of being provided with rice mixed with plastic rice are pouring in from different parts of Odisha, including Balasore and Sundargarh districts. 

According to their complaint, the specific rice float when soaked in water. When cooked, the rice feel sticky. When eaten, they don’t have their usual taste. They also remain intact despite chewing. 

The fear of plastic rice has gripped the people so much so that they have stopped using the rice fearing any health issues may affect their children. 

“When soaked, they become sticky. It seems they are plastic rice. Out of fear, we have stopped consuming them. If something wrong happens to our children, what will we do,” asked Subashini Pradhan, a PDS beneficiary from Badabahal in Sundargarh district. 

Another beneficiary from Sunhat area in Balasore district had something similar to complain about. “The PDS rice is mixed with a certain type of rice which are white in colour. When pressed, they feel hard. It has been discussed in our locality the consumption of this rice may result in health issues. We urged the government to carry out an investigation and let us know whether we should eat or not.”

A Lamataput beneficiary, Hari Sisha had the same complaint. 

Meanwhile, the Civil Supply Officers of Balasore and Sundargarh came up with a clarification. 

Issuing a press release, Balasore CSO said the beneficiaries are receiving vitamin-fortified rice since last January. One kilogram of fortified rice kernels (FRK) rice is mixed with every 100 kilograms. This specific rice is manufactured by government-recognized agencies. It will act as a nutritious diet. 

Here the question arising is how the common beneficiaries will know about the government’s plan?

Let alone the beneficiaries, even the Lamataput BDO, when asked, said he would order an inspection to find out what is mixed with the PDS rice.

“Some beneficiaries came to my office with samples of rice. Complaining about the quality of the rice, they gave me a letter wherein they have requested me to take steps to allay their fear. We don’t have any machinery to check the quality of the rice. Yet, I will ask the CSO to investigate the allegations. After getting the report, I can say anything about it,” clarified Karnadeba Samadar, Lamataput BDO. 

When contacted, CSO Sundargarh Durga Charan Besra said, “It is not plastic rice. It is FRK rice. We have received training on it. In the coming days, supply assistants will be engaged to create awareness among the people."