Himansu Shekhar Rout

Supply of subsidized rice to the poor under the public distribution system (PDS) has gone for a toss in some areas of Bolangir district allegedly due to a massive scam that came to the fore through RTI queries.  

As per reports, some officials of the Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Department have embezzled 500 quintals of PDS rice of the beneficiaries in the Bhadra Panchayat under Saintala Block. The embezzled rice is approximately valued at Rs 15 lakh.

The startling fact is that scores of beneficiaries have been taken for a ride as entries in their ration cards show that they have been delivered their quota of rice till October 2024. However, it is alleged that the rice quota of many beneficiaries for the last three months of the current financial year has not been distributed.    

The RTI revelation about a massive scam caused a furore among the people and the district civil supplies officer has assured an investigation into the matter.

Kainta Mahananda, a PDS beneficiary of Bhadra panchayat alleged that she did not even receive her quota of rice for the last three months, but surprisingly official entries in her ration card indicated that the rice had been delivered to her till October 2024. “I have not got rice for the last three months, but the officer has written that I have taken rice,” she alleged.

Like Kainta, many other gullible beneficiaries are allegedly deprived of their quota which they are entitled to in upcoming months. Supply assistants and officers have been accused of committing such irregularities deceitfully.  

Another beneficiary, Nilamabar Bhoi lamented that rice has not been supplied to them for the last four months. 

According to Baldev Kumbhar, an RTI activist, 1090 quintals of rice have been lifted for three months from October to December for the panchayat, but the food grains have not been distributed to most of the beneficiaries. Kumbhar alleged that about 590 quintals of rice lifted for five villages were misappropriated. 

Though the beneficiaries have complained about it time and again, no steps have been taken in this direction. It is alleged that supply assistant Satya Chhatria is the mastermind of the scam. Chhatria was earlier caught in the kerosene scam and suspended. Chhatria’s reaction could not be received despite repeated bids to contact him.

As per reports, the chairperson of the Odisha State Food Commission, Abantikanta Sahoo recently visited the district. He had been apprised of the scam, but nothing reportedly has come out of it. 

Also Read: Protest erupts after massive ‘irregularities’ in distribution of PDS rice in Jajpur

However, district civil supplies officer, Prabhakar Patra said, “The assistant civil supplies officer and other officials will conduct an investigation into the matter at the grassroots level. We will take stern action against the people involved in it.” 

As for the issue, Odisha State Food Commission chairperson, Abantikanta Sahoo said that he would look into the matter when he would be visiting Saintala.

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