The Rapid Action Battalion on Tuesday detained five people, including a food official, and seized 155 tonnes of government rice, allegedly stolen from a government warehouse in Chittagong.
Beside Pranayan Chakma, manager of Central Supply Depot of the directorate of food at Halishahar in the port city, the rest four detained were truck workers engaged in carrying the rice.
The incident took place at a time when the government was importing rice for its buffer stock amidst price hike of the staple in the local market and production shortfall due to flooding in northern and northeastern districts.
A team of the battalion in Chittagong seized the rice from the city’s Halishahar and Kattali areas in a daylong drive.
‘We have already asked the director general of food to initiate an investigation to identify the people behind the theft of rice from the CSD,’ food minister Qamrul Islam told New Age.
He said that all people involved in the theft would be brought to justice. ‘None would be spared,’ the minister warned.
RAB-7 deputy director Lieutenant Commander Ashiqur Rahman said that they detained five people, including Pranayan Chakma and seized seven trucks carrying 155 tonnes of rice in 3,096 sacks.
‘At first we seized four trucks carrying the government rice at Halishahar at about 2:30am and detained four workers of the trucks. We came to know from the truck workers in primary interrogation that the rice were being taken to a private warehouse owned by Kabir Majhi at Kattali near Eagle Star Textile Mill from Halishahar CSD. Later we conducted another drive at Kattali and seized three trucks carrying the government rice in front of the private warehouse,’ said Ashiqur.
‘We detained Halishahar CSD manager Pranayan Chakma from his house for his suspected involvement in the smuggling,’ said the battalion official.
‘We suspect that Pranayan was taking the rice from the government warehouse to the private warehouse. He was storing the rice there to sell the staple in the markets, which is illegal,’ Ashiqur said.
He said that Halishahar Central Supply Depot assistant manager Fakhrul Alam was also involved in the theft of the rice. ‘We are looking for Fakhrul, now on the run.’
Ashiqur said that they informed the food officials about the seizure.
Chittagong regional food controller Mahbubur Rahman said that they were not sure if the rice was stolen from the depot at Halishahar.
‘We have formed a three-member committee led-by Chittagong district food controller Md Jahirul Islam to investigate the allegation,’ said Mahbubur.
He said that they were checking the rice stock at the depot to confirm the allegation of theft.
The government’s food stock came down to as low as about 1.8 lakh tonnes in June, according to officials.
The floods have this time submerged aus and aman crop fields as well as aman seedbeds besides other crops in 16 northern and northeastern districts and flash flood in haor region destroyed standing boro crops in northeastern distrcits, putting the country’s food security at stake.
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