Powerful syndicates of black marketers with support from food department officers are running foolproof system of stealing grains from the government’s storage depots in the capital and elsewhere.
The syndicates are so powerful that even MPs cannot take their rice or wheat supplies for emergency relief distribution from the food department’s storage depots unless parts of the shipments were left behind for these groups.
The same thing happens with all the supplies for Open Market Sale as well as the ration supplies for the Bangladesh Ansar and Village Defence Party and possibly with the other forces.
The gross irregularity was exposed recently when a mobile court of Rapid Action Battalion intercepted two trucks immediately after they left the food department’s Central Storage Deport at Tejgaon carrying 30 tonnes of rice in 1,000 sacks, each containing 30 kg, for emergency relief distribution among victims of flood at Shyampur in the capital.
The RAB mobile court took the trucks back inside the CSD and on weighing the supplies detected that the two lorries were leaving the CSD with 20.50 tonnes of rice in 1,000 sacks.
Selecting 70 sacks on random basis, the RAB mobile court found that each sack contained rice ranging from 12 to 20 kg, executive magistrate Sarwoer Alam told New Age.
The syndicates are so powerful that they take cuts from emergency relief supplies intended to be distributed among disaster affected people, found a recent investigation by RAB, said its officials.
The pilferage starts right inside the storage depots of the government by illegally opening the sacks, RAB officials said.
The rice and wheat sacks are then weighed in tampered scales for delivery to the recipients, they said.
The delivery documents are manipulated at the 3rd stage and in the 4th and final stage pilfered rice and wheat are filled in new sacks and sold in the black market, said RAB officials.
The black marketers’ syndicates follow a complicated but almost foolproof method of operation, said Sarwoer Alam.
As the syndicates never pilfer directly from the stocks, they don’t show shortages and the offenders never get caught, he said.
Haider Ali, who received rice shipments for relief
distribution by Jatiya Party MP Syed Abu Hossain, said he found each was opened and re-stitched.
Haider said desperate to steal, food officers ignored repeated requests of Syed Abu Hossain, MP, over phone to ensure that no rice was taken out from his shipments.
Syed Abu Hossain told New Age that twice he was given less rice than what the government had sanction him for distribution among the needy people in his constituency.
In August, 400 needy villagers returned empty handed, said Syed Abu, as he was given less rice than what was sanctioned by the government.
He said that 2,500 needy villagers had come with their cards issued by him to collect their share of rice.
He said that 400 needy people had to return as the stock dried up after he distributed 20 kg of rice to each of 2,100 villagers.
He said that if 50 tonnes of rice was delivered to him as sanctioned no needy villager would have to return empty handed.
RAB said it sent its probe report to the Anti-Corruption Commission for action.
The RAB report said that Haider Ali was given less rice from the CSD for which food officers there used tampered weighing bridge scale.
The probe by RAB found the involvement of at least two food inspectors, four sub inspectors, and the CSD head guard.
CSD manager Humayun Kabir said that they blacklisted 21 food handlers and suspended a food inspector and two sub inspectors in connection with the incident.
The suspended staff include two granary in-charges Nannu Miah and Mohammad Hossain Mamun and weighing bridge scale in charge Papiya Sultana.
‘Other suspects are under departmental inquiry,’ said Humayun.
On July 18, RAB seized 155 tonnes of rice by intercepting six trucks shortly after they left the CSD in Chittagong as neither drivers could show any document authorizing the rice shipments to leave the CSD, said RAB Lt Commander Ashekur Rahman.
On July 19, the RAB seized 13 tonnes of government rice from a private warehouse in Chittagong.
Both the incidents are under investigation by the police, said Ashekur Rahman.
The Anti-Corruption Commission said Wednesday that it began investigations into the allegations of pilferage of food grains by syndicates comprising of government officials, dealers and hoarders.
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