The Rapid Action Battalion in a drive from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon seized 215 tonnes of rice and flour meant for open market sale from black marketers.
Under its Open Market Sale, known as OMS, the government sells rice and flour to poor groups at subsidized prices.
‘The latest seizure exposed continuing pilferage of rice and flour meant for the OMS programme,’ executive magistrate Sarwoer Alam, who led the RAB drive told New Age.
Sarwoer said that RAB intercepted eight trucks loaded with OMS rice and flour as soon as they left the Food Department’s Central Storage Depot at Tejgaon in the capital at 10Pm on Saturday.
The trucks were carrying 115 tonnes of rice and flour headed to Srimangal, Chuadanga and Gazipur, said Sarwoer.
Directorate General of Food runs the OMS programme.
Currently the OMS programme is run only in the capital.
After seizing the stolen stocks of rice and flour the RAB team raided Krishi Market at Mohammadpur and seized another 100 tonnes of rice and flour meant for the OMS from 11 rice shops, said Sarower.
At Krishi Market, a major wholesale market in the capital, the stolen rice was found inside intact sacks of the government, said Sarower.
‘It took for the RAB team until Sunday afternoon to complete the raid at the Krishi Market,’ he added.
Director General of Food Arifur Rahman Apu told New Age that a probe had been launched immediately.
‘Stealing of OMS rice and flour involves systematic corruption,’ said Apu.
‘We took it as an opportunity to detect stealing cereals from the CSD he added.
He said no such stealing would be possible without insiders’ involvement.
Sarwoer said that the CSD was not authorized to supply rice and flour after 5PM under a government decision to halt stealing.
Though it is mandatory for the CSD to keep records of every transport entering and leaving with rice and flour, Sarower said, the RAB team found no record of the seized 115 tonnes of rice and flour.
‘We also found evidence of private businessmen using the CSD to store their materials,’ said Sarwoer.
He said that the matter would be forwarded to the Anti-Corruption Commission for further investigation.
The incident reminds about a similar drive by the Rapid Action Battalion in September last year when black marketers were caught with stolen supplies of rice for free distribution among the flood victims of Syampur in the capital.
It was revealed at that time that the CSD staff had set aside at least 10 kg less of rice from each of 1,000 sacks.
The RAB team found that documents were manipulated to cover up the stealing and the syndicate of stealers was so powerful that even the MP the recipient of d the relief supplies could do nothing.
In April New Age ran a report exposing how OMS rice and flour were being stolen and sold in black market in the capital.
The report gave detailed accounts of the techniques used by OMS dealers to discourage poor people from buying from the subsidized OMS outlets.
In some cases, the supplies never reached the truck mounted OMS outlets.
In August, a huge quantity of rice meant for distribution among poor under the vulnerable group
feeding was found dumped in a pond at Haripur, Jhenidah.
In June another stock of 800 kg of rice meant for distribution among poor under the VGF programme was seized while it was being taken to the black market from Kuchia Mora Union warehouse in Magura Sadrar thana.
On the same day another 700 kg of VGF rice was seized in Barisal and a rice trader was arrested on charge of stealing the rice.
In a similar incident, police arrested six labourers while they were carrying 250 sacks of VGF rice for selling in black market in Sirajganj.
The labourers said that they were hired by Porjona union parishad chairman Zahidul Islam Mukul.
In Rajshahi and Faridpur similar stealing was also reported in August.
On April 12, two poor men were hit by bullets in Kurigram after a government appointed dealer opened fire on them for protesting against selling of rice meant for sale at Tk 10 per kg in black market.
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