130 rice trucks dispatched to Kashmir go missing
JAMMU, Mar 8: Incredible it may sound to many but it has really been exposed by the Special Audit Report Committee of the Government of India (Ministry of Food) with the intervention of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that 130 rice trucks of Food Corporation of India (FCI) which were dispatched to Kashmir from Punjab during just one year (2015-16) went missing on the way and never reached destination causing loss to the public exchequer worth over Rs 14. 74 crore.
“This multi-crore food scam in Kashmir is just a tip of an iceberg and outcome of just one financial year while the bitter truth is that for the last several decades many trucks were sold on the way with well knit ‘officials-contractors (transporters) nexus’, engineering plunder on the tax payers money of the State.
As per well designed modus operandi, over 2000 trucks from J&K and Punjab had been engaged by the J&K FCI Regional office authorities to procure rice and wheat from Punjab and Haryana. While rail freight is very cheap, the FCI authorities in J&K preferred 80% of the supplies through trucks and not trains just to mint money and fill own coffers as in this entire ‘dirty- game’ commission worth crores is involved,” highly placed sources in FCI told the Excelsior.
Sources further revealed that there are standing instructions to the FCI regional heads ( General Managers) from the Union Ministry to utilize cheapest mode of transportation while making supplies to various regions but in sheer violations of the standing Central Government directions, in J&K over 80% of the supplies even up to Jammu and Udhampur were conducted through trucks and hardly 20% through train.
The transportation rate of grains from Punjab to Jammu per quintal is hardly Rs 20 while truck contractors are charging anything between Rs 180 to Rs 200 per quintal. Even the transportation is avoided through trucks from Punjab up to Jammu or Udhampur where train services are available, but even then the people at the helm of affairs in the J&K FCI have engaged thousands of trucks for the supplies to Kashmir and Jammu regions. There is no scope of theft or adulteration of food grains enroute through trains while through trucks this all is possible.
Sources said that about 60 racks of foods grains (rice and wheat) are procured for Kashmir by the FCI every month and one rack consists of 26,000 quintals of food grains. Out of the total supply 70 percent is rice while hardly 30% wheat. More than Rs 100 crore is spent by FCI on account of transportation charges per month whereas, about 70-80 % of this tax payers amount can be saved if cheapest mode of transportation is adopted.
Huge money out of this game is going into the pocket of middle- men. Even the CAG did not pay much attention during past many years towards this massive pilferage though they pointed out some irregularities few years back.
Earlier, the CAG pointed out missing of hardly 20-30 trucks and misappropriation of Rs 2.5 crore. They found that the trucks which were shown off loaded at Baramulla/Anantnag stores of FCI and payments shown cleared by concerned staff, had not any entry in the record at Lakhanpur, Rajbagh and even at Lower Munda check posts.
It indicated that trucks loaded with food grains never entered J&K and were sold in Punjab. The staff at Baramulla and some other depots at Kashmir made fictitious/ fake entries and even the transportation charges were also withdrawn.
Unfortunately an upright officer who pointed out these irregularities earlier and wrote to the FCI J&K Regional authorities besides two others were made scapegoat and charge sheeted. The preliminary departmental inquiry was held just for face saving in which real culprits were shielded and the whistleblowers were placed under suspension and charge-sheeted.
It was with the efforts of FCI J&K Union and the charge-sheeted officers that they approached the PMO though written communication and FCI Headquarters Delhi, that a Special Audit Committee of Union Food Ministry led by Santak Saraf -DGM (Gen) and assisted by AGM (IA) Regional Head Office Lucknow Ashok Kumar, VS Walia AGM (IA) RO Haryana, and AGM (IA) Hq (Delhi) Amit Kumar Singh, conducted special audit and submitted report to PMO and Union Ministry.
A copy of the report in possession of ‘Daily Excelsior’ giving reference of the communication from PMO vide No. MPOPG/D/2017/0200938, revealed that record from FSD Dhariwal and Gurdaspur and FCI depots at Baramulla and Jammu Regional offices besides check posts en-route was scrutinized.
The documents including reconciliation statements, outward register, copies of challans, gate passes were scrutinized for passing the bills of transport contractors. The committee of FCI RO Jammu had pointed out losses of Rs 2.51 crore. But this committee conducting special audit found that 130 trucks for taking delivery of stocks with challan copies gate pass left the dispatching depots in Punjab but did not reported to Lower Munda and other posts, thus indicating misappropriation by the RTC ( transporters/ contractors) in connivance with the FCI staff at Baramulla. They put the value of stock (52521 bags missing ) around Rs 14.09 crore and transportation charges worth Rs 65.46 lakh. The total amount swindled was put at around Rs 14.74 crores by the Special Audit Committee.
The committee also directed to stop the road movement of stocks to Kashmir valley immediately specially where this scam has surfaced but the process was not stalled by the officials at the helm of affairs. Even they have not stopped the rent of Rs 25 lakh per month of the private go down owner at Baramulla where this major scam has surfaced. No FIR was lodged against the officials involved, by the Regional Head of the FCI at Jammu.
General Manager (J&K Region) FCI, Kishore Kumar when contacted said that case is under investigation by CBI but some transport contractors from Punjab have gone to the court to bring stay against this probe. He said earlier, majority of the food grain were being transported through trucks but now, they have been using rail points at Udhampur and Bari Brahmana and even Samba for off loading food grains and then transportation to Kashmir. He said now over 70% grains are being transported through trains.
Replying to another question, GM said about 2000 trucks through contractors have been engaged by J&K FCI to procure from Punjab and Haryana. He said about 90% of the rice and wheat is being procured from Punjab only. When asked what action was taken by him as regional head against those officials who were found involved un multi crore scam, GM said, ” three persons were charge sheeted. But now, the case is being investigated by the CBI as it has registered an FIR, they will take cognizance of it.”