Rampurhat, June 12: They had been patrolling the main village road day and night for the past six months in shifts. But on each occasion, they missed their target. Not last night.
Villagers in Masra, Birbhum, caught a truck in which the local ration dealer was allegedly illegally transporting sacks of rice and wheat meant for BPL card-holders.
The truck, which was carrying 39 sacks of rice and 11 sacks of wheat, was seized by police. But the ration dealer, Atul Dey, escaped.
“We hope to arrest him at the earliest. We are conducting raids,” said Koteswara Rao, the subdivisional police officer of Rampurhat.
The villagers, mostly farmers and BPL card-holders, alleged that the ration dealer sold good quality rice and wheat to traders in different towns at higher rates and gave them poor quality grain.
BPL card-holders get rice at Rs 2 a kg and wheat at Rs 3 a kg in ration shops. A villager claimed that Dey sold the BPL rice for Rs 15 a kg to wholesellers and the wheat for Rs 16 a kg.
Asked what prompted the villagers to suspect that Dey was selling the good quality rice and wheat to traders, farmer Sukhen Mondal said: “He has amassed significant wealth in the past few years and bought a vehicle. Are these possible by selling just rice and wheat and getting a commission from the government? We often found trucks standing outside his shop at night. We concluded that he was augmenting his income illegally.”
The villagers divided themselves into groups last December and patrolled the roads at night. “Although we saw the trucks, we failed to stop them on several occasions,” Mondal said.
Last night, a group a four villagers keeping vigil saw a truck outside the ration shop around 10.30pm. One of the four informed Mondal. Soon, around 500 villagers surrounded the vehicle before it could start.