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West Bengal: Babus in boiling rice pot – Villagers scream for ration thieves’ punishment

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 20, 2007


Durgapur, Sept. 19: Villagers today surrounded a convoy of food department officials from Calcutta, banged at their cars with clenched fists and demanded immediate punishment for corrupt ration dealers.

The government team travelled to villages in Borjora and Sonamukhi in Bankura to probe the ration rage.

Food department joint secretary Gopinath Mukherjee and deputy director Sukhendu Chakraborty tried in vain to tell the residents of Hatasuria that they had come to look into the villagers’ problems. A mobile police patrol unit rescued them.

“They were slightly mobbed, but we were prompt,” district magistrate Surendra Gupta said.

The duo from Calcutta, district food department officials and Bankura subdivisional officer Shyamasish Roy arrived at Kotalpukur around 10am.

A ration dealer and his son had shot at a group of people demanding foodgrain in the village on Sunday.

As the officers inspected Narayan Dutta’s shop, which had been looted, farmer Shibu Ruidas, 38, asked: “Sir, what are you looking for?”

Mukherjee stepped out of the ground floor shop and started speaking to the villagers. “Do you get wheat and kerosene from this shop?”

“No, Dutta said there was no supply,” the villagers screamed in unison.

“Do you know how much grain or kerosene you are supposed to get every week?”

No was the answer again.

“We got bullets from the dealer when we demanded rice and wheat,” said Manoj Ruidas, 30, an unemployed youth.

Like Dutta, Fazal Haque Mullick of Chandai Bagan village had told villagers that the government had stopped supplying everything but kerose-ne. When villagers stormed his house on Monday, sacks of rice and wheat were found in a storeroom. They were looted.

“This is only the first day of our investigation. After visiting several villages, we have realised that most people are unaware of what they are supposed to get from a ration shop,” Mukherjee said.

He admitted negligence on the part of the department: that the monitoring system had virtually collapsed.

“There were faults on our part. I’ll submit a report along with suggestions to the government for a permanent solution to the crisis,” Mukherjee added.

At Narayansundari and Balarampur villages in Manik Bazaar, many, like Bidesh Mal, 30, a labourer and Shital Sardar, 35, a farmer, recalled how the ration shop owner had bluffed villagers for months.

Twenty-six ration dealers have been suspended over the past month, the district magistrate said.

The ration dealers’ association has sought security from the administration.

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Ration dealers enjoy CPM support, villagers suffer

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 19, 2007


Bankura, September 18 WHEN villagers at Radharampur in Bankura district attacked a CPM leader busy at a closed-door meeting of the party last Sunday, their demand was simple: “Give us our weekly rations”. The same evening, villagers attacked the house of another CPM leader at nearby Kotalpukur with the same demands.

The story begins and ends with one line: “most dealers in the PDS network are CPM cadres as well as card-holding members”.

In Bankura district alone, seven such members hold government licences for dealerships in PDS goods.

Amiya Patra, CPM district committee secretary, said, “I can’t say what the supporters are doing, but party members should not be given dealerships. I have to check if they became party members first or dealers first.”

DM S K Gupta said: “It is very difficult to comment. At best, I can check if the food inspectors had carried out their responsibilities.”

Narayan Chandra Dutta, a PDS dealer for Kotalpukur earns only Rs 2,500 a month. He owns a two-storeyed house of 4,000 sq ft. The catch: he is a CPM cardholder.

Dulal Bauri, a former village chief and local committee member, said: “We can see the corruption but cannot say anything because they are in power.” He added that the party needs people like Dutta as he is “needed for election and collection purposes”.

Dutta’s working procedure is very simple. A PDS dealer picks up the allotted quota of food grains and kerosene oil meant for the ration card holders who come to his shop, “sell” it to the card holders, deposit the money with the area distributor, who then pays Dutta a commission.

Nirmal Ray, area distributor under Borjora police station, who has 54 such dealers reporting to him, said: “Dutta gets anything between Rs 2,000 to 2,500 as commission. From this, he has to pay for an employee. How can I say how he got to build that house?”

The answer: Dutta’s brother Hiranmoy owns the biggest grocery shop in the village. Dutta gets enough food grain from the government for his flock, but tells ration-card holders that he has nothing. Then he sells the grain to his brother.

Last week alone, Dutta had picked up 763 kg of wheat. The ration shop is now selling wheat at Rs 6.75 a kg. But Hiranmoy sells wheat in the open market at Rs 10 a kg.

For rice, the ration price is Rs 7 a kg, against the open market price of Rs 13 a kg. Dealers like Dutta have around 2,000 ration cards on their books.

Trapped by the nexus are villagers like Sukur Ali Khan, who holds a ration card but has not been given rice or wheat for the last 11 months. “Even this unrest would not have happened, but for the fact that the market prices had shot up. Before this, we used to buy rice from his brother.”

CPM, having sensed the ire of the people over the lack of subsidised rations, had been egging on the villagers to launch a peaceful movement against ration dealers.

Block Development Officer Dibyanarayan Chatterjee said, “I have been holding this post here for the last 11 months, but I was not aware that people were not getting their quotas.”

http://www.expressindia.com

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West Bengal: The CPM rationing rationale exposed

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 19, 2007


Kanchan Siddiqui

BANKURA, Sept. 18: Many ration shops at Bankura are not only owned by CPI-M cadres, but stocks from most of these stores are regularly smuggled out and sold in the open market. This startling revelation has been made in a preliminary inquiry report prepared by the CPI-M district leadership at the behest of the party state committee.

The disclosure adds a new twist to the violent reaction of villagers on 16 September at Sonamukhi, Bankura, against some CPI-M local leaders for not doing anything to ensure regular supply of food stuff through the ration shops. The party district secretariat has already sent the report to CPI-M state secretary Mr Biman Bose. A series of attacks on ration dealers had prompted the CPI-M state committee to seek a detailed report from its district secretary Mr Amio Patra. It may not be a coincidence that the LF committee, during the day, decided to stage a series of protests against price hike ~ blaming it all on the Centre. It’s possible that the party switched its demonstration gear because the realisation has sunk in that protests against the nuclear deal wouldn’t drum up as much public support.

Mr Patra, has listed a number of reasons in his preliminary report which, according to him, “might have made the locals revolt”. Mr Narayan Dutta, a ration dealer of Kotalpukur is a CPI-M cadre. His nephew is the unit secretary of the party in that area while Narayan’s elder brother, Mr Hironmoy Dutta runs the largest grocery shop located just across the ration shop.
Narayan’s ration shop never stocks up “enough” but the grocery shop does extremely well as hapless customers have no option but to shop at Mr Hironmoy Dutta’s shop. Mr Patra said: “I have let Bimanda know this.”

Mr Patra doesn’t agree, though, that corruption-ridden party ranks could be responsible for the public outrage over the inadequate public distribution system in the district.

CM slams Forward Bloc
The CM today took a dig at the Forward Bloc, which holds the food and supplies portfolio, during the Left Front meeting. Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said a large section of ration shop owners have turned out to be corrupt. FB leaders reportedly kept mum.

http://www.thestatesman.ne

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West Bengal: Rags to riches, thanks to big rice belly – No grain in outlet, godown full,

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 18, 2007


Bankura, Sept. 17: Fazal Haque Mullick lived in a thatched house 20 years ago. He has a three-storey mansion now.

Two other things have changed in between: he has become a ration dealer and an avowed CPM supporter.

He had not sold any wheat, rice or sugar through his shop in the past year, fooling villa- gers by saying the government had stopped supplying them. When around 60 villagers raided his house today, there were sacks full of them in a godown behind the main building.

“Fazal had fooled us. He told us the government had stopped supplying rice, wheat and sugar to ration shops and that only kerosene was available. For that, too, he made us pay Re 1 more for every litre,” said Moktar Hossain, 50, a farmer.

“Now we’ll snatch our food,” the villagers shouted while looting Fazal’s stocks.

Residents of Chandai Bagan village in Borjora alleged that Fazal, who used to be a daily labourer after being driven out of his house for marrying against his parents’ wishes, obtained the ration shop licence a couple of decades ago.

Even children made a beeline for the treasure trove today and mopped up the rice and wheat that had spilled on the ground.

Realising the mood in the village last night, Fazal had fled his house with his family early this morning.

Only his younger sister, Amija Bibi, was sitting in the courtyard in a corner of the house and crying.

“Fazal became a CPM supporter and rich in front of us. He also set up a rice retail shop for his son, Fine Haque Mullick,” said Bablu Sardar.

The villagers had no option but to buy the same rice from the market, paying Rs 3 to Rs 4 more for every kilo. “Ration wheat costs Rs 6.75 a kg, but we paid Rs 9,” Bablu said.

“Is there anybody to help us?” Amija asked, sobbing.

Houses of at least 10 ration dealers were attacked today. Foodgrain stocked in Dinabandhu Dutta’s house at Saharjora was also looted.

At Kotalpukur, Narayan Dutta fired from his revolver at the mob pelting his house with stones.

“We repeatedly asked him why we were not getting our supplies and he said there was no supply,” said Debashis Sarkar, 40, a grocer.

Narayan’s ground-floor godown was looted last night.

District officials refused to admit any fault on their part. “We always investigated complaints. We have suspended 16 ration dealers in Bankura over the past month,” district ration controller Himadri Shekhar Das said.

He admitted, though, that the vigil was lax. “Of the 80 inspector posts, 49 are vacant. So we cannot maintain proper vigil on the dealers,” said Das.

Bankura CPM secretary Amiya Patra blamed the government for the crisis at an all-party meeting called by district magistrate Surendra Gupta today and distanced his party from the dealers. “We knew that a section of ration dealers were corrupt and had lodged complaints against them. But the government didn’t take action,” Patra said.

The Left Front will discuss the rage over the ration mess tomorrow.

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West Bengal: Ration rage spills over

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 18, 2007



Durgapur, Sept. 16: The Bankura rice rage is spreading.

Two more ration dealers were attacked in Bankura hours after villagers broke up an “anti-imperialism” meeting and roughed up CPM leaders in Sonamukhi for ignoring complaints against “corrupt” suppliers.

Trouble spread to Kotalpukur in Borjora, around 50km from Sonamukhi, around 6.30pm when 250 villagers marched to local ration dealer Narayan Dutta’s house. Armed with bows and arrows, spears and axes, they surrounded the house.

“Come out, you corrupt ration dealer. Over the past one year, you have blackmarketed all our ration supplies of rice and wheat. We will do to you what the villagers have done to CPM leaders in Sonamukhi,” police quoted the villagers as shouting.

“Dutta panicked and took out his licensed revolver and opened fire on the mob. Five persons were injured,” said Shyamashish Roy, the subdivisional officer (Sadar), Bankura.

Soon, the crowd outside swelled to 2,000 and the villagers ordered Dutta to come out.

Some villagers opted for a dialogue from the Mithun Chakraborty-starrer, Minister Phatakeshto: “Marbo ekhaney, lash porbey shashaney (We will kill you here and the body will fall in the graveyard).”

“Dutta was scared and locked himself up in his two-storey house with wife and daughter. They threatened to set his house on fire,” a police officer said.

A police team was rushed from Borjora police station but the force was inadequate. The police retreated and tried to pacify the crowd through a jeep-mounted public address system.

Eventually, the Rapid Action Force had to be called in. But the villagers relented only after a senior officer assured them that Dutta would be arrested.

Dutta soon came out and the police whisked him to the police station in a jeep. A police squad has been stationed at Dutta’s house to protect his family.

In another incident in Gopalpur village, also in Borjora, about 400 villagers surrounded the two-storey house of local ration dealer Fazrur Rahman around 7.30pm.

They broke open the door, dragged him out of the house and beat him up, charging him with smuggling out rice and wheat supplies and selling them in the black market.

The villagers then stormed a godown in the ground floor and looted grain. The police eventually rescued Fazrur from the mob and took him to the station.

Bankura district magistrate Surendra Gupta has convened an all-party meeting tomorrow.

Bankura police has issued an alert across the district.

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