Subsidised rice meant for Karnali illegally exported to other provincesA truck carrying 250 quintals of subsidised rice on its way to Bhaktapur from Surkhet was seized by police, according to the chief district officer.
On Thursday, police personnel deployed at Subbakuna Check Post in Surkhet stopped a truck on its way out of the district. The truck was carrying sacks of subsidised rice meant for the hilly regions of Karnali Province to Bhaktapur in Bagmati Province, said police.
Superintendent of Police Rajendra Bhatta informed Chief District Officer of Surkhet Hiralal Regmi about the incident. Regmi instructed Bhatta to seize the truck since Surkhet does not export rice to other districts.
Regmi also instructed the police to seal the godown of Birendranagar-based Durga Bhagwati Enterprises, the supplier of rice grains in the Karnali region. A team deployed from the District Administration Office also seized documents from the supplier (Durga Bhagwati Enterprises) on Thursday night on suspicions of the role played by the employees of the Food Management and Trading Company Ltd in the illegal export of rice outside the district.
The initial investigation showed that the supplier was sending 250kgs of subsidised rice to Bhaktapur instead of sending it to the mountainous districts of Karnali region. “Upon questioning, the supplier also accepted that subsidised rice was being transported to Bhaktapur,” said Regmi. “This incident brought to light the underhanded practices in place in the food sector. It revealed how subsidised rice meant for the people of Karnali gets sold elsewhere. Although we face pressure from all quarters to release the seized truck, we will not do so.”
According to one of the investigators involved in the investigation, Basudev Sharma, the rice supplier and the proprietor of Durga Bhagwati Enterprises and Sharma Construction Service, was trying to export 250kgs of subsidised rice to Bhaktapur in a truck (Na 6 Kha 5721).
“Sharma Construction Service is a supplier firm of the Food Management and Trading Company Ltd. The contractor was trying to transport subsidised rice under the name of Sharma Construction Service to Bhaktapur-based Ajaya Khaddyanna Suppliers,” he said.
According to the branch office of the Food Management and Trading Company Ltd in Surkhet, Sharma Construction Service has the contract to transport 3,000 quintals of rice to Kalai of Mugu and 500 quintals each in Chamunda and Thantikandh of Dailekh in the current fiscal year.
According to the agreement with the company signed on October 2, Sharma had 1,000 quintals of Japanese rice and 1,000 quintals of Aruwa Mota brought from the company.
“It is clear that Sharma was trying to transport rice meant for Mugu to Bhaktapur. We are investigating where the firm sold the rest of the rice,” said the investigator.
Pushkar Bham, an official at the Mugu-based depot of the company, subsidised rice for this fiscal year is yet to arrive in Kalai.
“We heard that Sharma has already received the rice stock from the Surkhet-based branch office of the Food Management and Trading Company Ltd but our depot has not received it yet,” said Bham.
According to the District Police Office in Surkhet, there should be 2,000 quintals of rice at Sharma’s godown but it currently has only around 200 quintals.
“This shows that the contractor has already sold most of the subsidised rice in stock,” said the investigator.
Sharma has admitted that the rice that was being sent to Bhaktapur is the same stock procured from the Food Management and Trading Company Ltd.
“Japanese rice cannot be sold in the villages. Locals in the villages do not prefer Japanese rice. That is why I tried to change the rice and bring the brand liked by the villagers. Although the bill was prepared in the name of the Bhaktapur-based firm, the rice was being sent to Nepalgunj.”
Sharma had removed the rice sacks from their original Food Management and Trading Company Ltd packages and repackaged the sacks under the brand name ‘Kalash’, according to Regmi. “We had found subsidised rice repackaged under a different brand name,” he said.
According to Regmi, the administration will take action against Sharma for swindling and black marketing, if found guilty.
Madhav Mishra, who was transferred to the branch office of the company in Surkhet just a week ago, said, “We are ready to help the police and the administration in the investigation process. The contractor has to supply rice to the respective destinations within two weeks of taking the stocks from our godown.”
“The contractor cannot exchange rice stocks or make delays in transportation. It’s against the contract agreement. And, the contractor has to distribute rice from the depots of the Food Management and Trading Company Ltd in various districts,” he said.