Supplier under investigation for illegal export of subsidised ricePolice arrested the accused on Tuesday and have remanded him in custody for seven days for a probe.
The District Police Office in Surkhet has initiated investigation into the illegal export of subsidised rice meant for Karnali Province. Last Thursday, police had seized a truck carrying 250kgs of subsidised rice at Subbakuna Check Post in Surkhet. The rice, originally to be supplied to the hilly regions of the province, was being transported to Bhaktapur in Bagmati Province.
On Tuesday, police arrested Basudev Sharma, the rice supplier and the proprietor of Durga Bhagwati Enterprises and Sharma Transportation Service, for his involvement in the illegal export of subsidised rice meant for Mugu. The District Administration Office in Surkhet had permitted the local police to take Sharma under custody for seven days.
Chief District Officer Hiralal Regmi said an investigation is being carried out to file black marketeering case against Sharma.
“We are also consulting with the District Attorney to precede the case. This issue is not only about black marketeering. It's also a social crime,” said Regmi. “We will take strong action against the guilty and make sure such incidents do not happen in the future.”
However, the recent incident of malpractice in the supply of subsidised rice is not an isolated one. Around 35,000 quintals of subsidised rice is transported to several districts of Karnali Province from Surkhet through air and land routes every year. The illegal sale of subsidised rice on the way to its destination, delay in the transport of the rice to designated places and the illegal export of the supply to districts outside the province are common occurrences, says Rom Mahat of Jumla, assistant chief district officer of Surkhet. According to him, the authorities’ indifference to the malpractices in the rice business in the region is one of the leading reasons why such incidents continue to occur.
“The then Nepal Food Corporation knew of two incidents wherein the supplier and other stakeholders were selling subsidised rice meant for Karnali Province in other provinces,” he said. “But the guilty were not punished, as the concerned authorities did not investigate the cases. There is no record of such cases in the official files since the incidents were not investigated. The latest incident will have proper investigation since the local administration and police have taken the issue seriously,” said Mahat.
Meanwhile, Sharma’s godown in Birendranagar was sealed on Thursday, said Rajendra Bhatta, superintendent of police in Surkhet. According to him, the police recovered 60 quintals of rice (200 sacks of 30kg each) in the godown.
“Investigation is underway to locate around 750 quintals of rice,” Bhatta said.
According to the Food Management and Trading Company Ltd, Sharma had 1,000 quintals of Japanese rice brought from the company. The supplier had brought an additional 100 quintals of Aruwa Mota rice from the company on October 21.
Sharma Transportation Service has signed an agreement with the company 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.
Nanda Bahadur Shahi, an assistant sub inspector of Kalai Police Post in Mugu, said the supplier had sent an additional 60 quintals of rice to Kalai, Mugu on Monday evening.
Sharma Transportation Service is the main trading firm that transports food to various districts in Karnali. In the past three years, the company has acquired about one-fourth of the total food transportation contracts in Karnali. The company was awarded a contract to transport 7,000 quintals of rice to six different places in the current fiscal year.
The Food Management and Trading Company has remained tight-lipped since the bust at the Subbakuna Check Post last Thursday. As per the 32-point food transportation agreement paper signed between the Food Management and Trading Company and Sharma Transportation Service, the former can take action against the other party. It can blacklist the firm, charge penalty and seize the deposit amount.
Madhav Mishra, chief at Surkhet-based Food Management and Trading Company Ltd, however, claimed that the Food Management and Trading Company has not taken any action as the case is under investigation.
“The investigation carried out by the district administration and police will hopefully be concluded within a few days. We will wait for their report and take action then,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Karnali Provincial government, Social Development Committee of the Provincial Assembly and lawmakers from Mugu have directed police administration to take strong action against the guilty involved in the incident.
“The famine of Karnali has been long neglected. The guilty should be brought to book. The provincial government will support the district administration,” Chief District Officer Regmi quoted Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi as saying.