Uttarakhand PDS scam: Congress accuses BJP of vendetta politics
After the NH-24 scam, yet another scam worth Rs 600 crore in the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) in the Kumaon division of Uttarakhand has been unearthed by Trivendra Singh Rawat-led BJP government. The investigation conducted by the Special Investigating Team (SIT) revealed that the PDS scam happened under the nose of the previous government with some BJP leaders hinting at the involvement of senior Congress leaders.
These allegations have turned into a heated political battle in the state with Congress accusing the BJP government of indulging in vendetta politics and maligning the party and its leaders. State Congress President Pritam Singh accused the government of harassing Congress workers and cited incident of Dharchula where no confidence motion has been moved against the Block President.
Speaking to reporters in Dehradun, Singh said that Congress would launch a movement against the anti-people policies of the government and its leaders would court arrest if needed. Speaking on the PDS scam, Singh said that there is BJP government both at the Center and the state and they could initiate a CBI inquiry into the alleged scam.
He also dared the government to take action against those who have been involved in the case including senior leaders and ministers. When asked why Singh, who was the Food Minister in the previous government, did not come to know of such a scam in his own ministry, Singh said that it was a lower level matter.
Earlier, the BJP government had accused the previous Congress government of being involved in the NH-24 scam where irregularities were found in providing compensation to those whose land had been acquired for the process. However, the state government's request for a CBI probe in the matter has not moved forward.
In fact, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had asked to the state government to not initiate a CBI probe as it would have an adverse impact on the morale of the NHAI officials. Since then, there has been no clarity whether CBI would probe the matter or not and the state government has maintained an eerie silence on the issue.
Congress leaders feel that the PDS scam too is just a political move to target the opposition and there is not much truth in the allegations. Meanwhile, after the preliminary findings, Vishnu Singh Dhanik, the regional food controller of the Kumaon division, has been issued marching orders.
His dismissal was ordered after the SIT, headed by Udhamsingh Nagar District Magistrate Niraj Khairwal, submitted its report which highlighted irregularities in the procurement and distribution of the food grains meant for the poor.
The issue first came into the limelight after locals from the Kumaon region complained to the finance minister Prakash Pant about the unavailability and poor quality of PDS ration. After receiving such reports, he alerted the chief minister who constituted a SIT on 2 August to look into the allegations.
The investigating team then found irregularities and inconsistency in official documents and revealed that rice procured for BPL families was bought and transported only on paper. Earlier in July, state police arrested a man with documents after which the scam was revealed. Further, the investigation revealed that there have been irregularities in PDS have been ongoing for the previous two years.
These revelations forced the chief minister to take action against Dhanik who apparently is considered close to the former chief minister Harish Rawat. In fact, he was on two occassions given extension by the chief minister despite objections from other departments. Even after the BJP government took over, Dhanik continued to serve in the position. It is expected that several other officers too could face action for their involvement in the scam.
The investigation also revealed how there provision of obtaining movement chalan was completely ignored by the officials and that senior officials were aware of these irregularities but did not take any action. These anomalies were found during documentary verification at several PDS godowns in the Rudrapur, Kashipur, Kiccha and Bajpur towns of Uddhamsingh Nagar district.
During the course of the investigation, farmers and rice millers were also questioned after which the SIT was able to zero down on the loss to the state which was then zeroed down to Rs 60,000 crore.
Interestingly, most of these complaints were from the Uddhamsingh Nagar district which had earlier shot into limelight for the multi-crore NH-24 widening scam.