Police in Nadia’s Birnagar town arrested a transporter on Saturday for allegedly "packing afresh" government-supplied wheat flour and rice in sacks for sale to retailers in the open market amid the ongoing Enforcement Directorate probe into the "ration scam".
Prasanta Roy, a small-time transporter and allegedly a middleman between ration distributors and private retailers, was nabbed by residents in Charakpara, Birnagar, on Saturday morning when he was "transferring flour and rice from bags supplied by the state food and supplies department to other sacks secretly inside a banana orchard".
Prasanta owns the banana orchard, sources said.
The police seized over 400 sacks filled with packets of fortified whole meal flour and over 150 sacks of rice. These items were reportedly exclusively meant for the sale and distribution among people through the ration shops in the area.
“As a transporter of ration items, Prasanta’s activities were quite suspicious for a while. He was questioned by police for ration theft a few days ago. Today (Saturday) we noticed he was cutting atta packets meant for supply through ration shops and loading the contents inside sacks. We found about 500 sealed sacks of flour and rice.... We asked him why he was packing ration items again but he failed to give any reply," a local resident said.
They then alerted the police, who arrested the transporter.
Over a few hundred sacks with logos of local brands were seized from the spot. These sacks were used to illegally supply items sold in ration shops to the local retail markets, the police said.
Police sources said Prasanta had a strong nexus with distributors, who packed ration items afresh and sold them to private retailers.
As the incident comes in the backdrop of the ongoing ED probe and the arrest of former food and supplies minister Jyoti Priya Mallick, the state food and civil supplies department has ordered a probe into it.
Current food and supplies minister Rathin Ghosh told The Telegraph: “I directed senior officials of the department to examine the seized packets to confirm if they were meant for ration shops. They will also find out how the man (Prasanta) received the consignment.”
BJP MP from Ranaghat, Jagannath Sarkar, who visited the spot on Saturday, said: “The ED rightly said that a big part of ration items was being diverted to the open market."
The BJP MP also alleged that the entire operation wasn't possible without the support of food and supplies department officials, the police and Trinamul leaders.