| Villagers surround one of the ponds as divers fish out bags full of rice and wheat. Picture by Jahangir Badsa
Tamluk, Nov. 2: Hundreds of bags of rice and wheat were today fished out of ponds, where a Haldia ration dealer had allegedly dumped them fearing a food department raid on his godown.
Narayan Chandra Pradhan had also apparently thrown some of the sacks into the septic tank behind his house.
The stench of rotting rice and wheat from the ponds roused the villagers’ suspicion last evening. This morning, they saw the water turn black and dead fish float.
“Some of us dived into the pond and pulled out sacks with rotten wheat and rice. The water smelt foul and we were surrounded by dead fish,” said Sudipta Samanta, a resident of Solat, 145km from Calcutta.
A group of villagers searching for hidden stocks of foodgrain saw wheat scattered on the septic tank. When they opened its lids, they found more sacks of rice and wheat.
“We looked around for more and found a mound in a lawn inside the ration dealer’s house. We dug it up and found more rice and wheat,” said Sheikh Shajahan of Geondab.
Narayan, who had sensed trouble, fled home last night.
Nearly 3,000 villagers marched to Narayan’s home at Solat, ransacked the house and smashed furniture.
They set fire to hay stacks in the compound and threw bundles of hay in ponds. Some foodgrain, stocked in his godown at Geondab, was looted.
The police arrived in time to prevent the villagers from looting the household articles.
“We could not stop the villagers from looting the godown because the team was small,” said Nirmal Maji, the officer-in-charge of Bhabanipur police station.
The villagers accused Narayan of trying to hide around 5,000kg of foodgrain.
Subdivisional food controller Bikram Chakraborty said the ration dealer has been suspended. “We conducted a probe and found that the dealer had hoarded foodgrain. We had received complaints that he had thrown a huge quantity into ponds and other places,” said Chakraborty.