Scam to beat fodder scam

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By MONOBINA GUPTA in Delhi
  • Published 6.01.05
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New Delhi, Jan. 6: It is five times bigger than Bihar?s fodder scam and is flourishing with impunity across the country.

Massive quantities of food grain worth about Rs 5,000 crore are being siphoned off every year from the public distribution system (PDS), meant to reach essential supplies to the poor at subsidised rates.

The scam ? which has left the nearly Rs 1,000-crore fodder scam way behind ? is being orchestrated by a mafia of ration shop dealers, administrative officials, policemen and politicians. And they will stop at nothing to muzzle protests from the deprived sections like slum dwellers and those in resettlement colonies.

A week ago, goons in the heart of a resettlement colony in Delhi tried to kill 20-year-old Santosh, an activist of Parivartan, a voluntary organisation which has been systematically exposing corruption in the public distribution system in slums and resettlement colonies in the capital.

?I take the resettlement colony women to the food department and demand that they get their due share,? Santosh said at a news conference organised by Parivartan today.

?They assaulted me, tried to slit my throat while I was walking down the alley. I somehow managed to escape,? she said.

?Next time I may not survive an attack.?

Santosh is not the first Parivartan activist to have been attacked. There have been five such assaults in the past.

?Parivartan has filed 109 complaints so far. Government inaction has strengthened the hand of the mafia,? said Aruna Roy, a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) that was set up to monitor implementation of the government?s common minimum programme.

That the corruption nexus runs deep and wide became clear when Parivartan members took a profusely bleeding Santosh to a nearby hospital where the doctors turned the victim into the assailant.

They accused Santosh of inflicting the wound on herself and police refused to register a first information report.

The activists then knocked on the doors of all those who ?matter? ? Delhi?s chief secretary, its food commissioner and finally chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

Santosh met Dikshit but her response was that the Delhi government did not engineer the attack. Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh also pitched in, but nothing happened.

Finally, Roy wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

?Her office has informed Parivartan that the necessary action has been taken,? the NAC member said.

However, no FIR has been lodged, the guilty have not been arrested, and the illegal PDS trade is thriving.

According to figures given by NAC member Jean Dreze, a professor in Delhi School of Economics, grain theft is as high as 88 per cent in Bihar, 67 per cent in Bengal, 70 per cent in Uttar Pradesh, 47 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, 94 per cent in Haryana, 88 per cent in Punjab and 79 per cent in Jharkhand.

The only state that does not figure on this list is Tamil Nadu.