Spoilt rice distributed as relief in Dhangadhi Sub MetropolisThe Sub Metropolitan city had purchased food grains worth Rs 26.1 million to distribute to the impoverished households during the coronavirus pandemic.
Arjun Shah & Mohan Budhaair
On May 11, more than 50 people had queued up at Shivapuri Dham to receive relief distributed by Dhangadhi Sub Metropolitan City. But the relief distribution programme came to a halt after some residents of Dhangadhi Ward No. 4 complained to the officials that the rice being distributed in the relief package was of substandard quality.
According to Ward Chairman Dipak Bahadur Thapa Chhetri, the rice that was being distributed was provided by the Dhangadhi Sub Metropolitan City Office.
“I informed the sub metropolitan office, Red Cross and Food Technology and Quality Control Office in Dhangadhi about the substandard quality of the rice. During a random checking at the godown, six packets of rice were found spoilt and bugs-infested,” said Chhetri.
According to Chhetri, most families in the ward are running out of food at home and they are asking his office to give them the bugs-infested rice.
“I find myself at a loss,” he said.
In the first phase, the ward office had distributed rice to 610 households.
“Complaints of substandard rice being distributed as relief came to light during the second phase of distribution,” said Chhetri. The ward office had also provided salt, cooking oil, sugar and pulses to the impoverished households.
On May 12, the representatives of the Food Technology and Quality Control Office in Dhangadhi had inspected the godown and examined the quality of the rice.
“During the inspection, we found some of the rice sacks infested with bugs. Thakur Trade Link Suppliers, the contractor company, has been fined Rs 200,000 for supplying rotten rice. Action has been taken against the suppliers based on the Consumers Protection Act,” said Dipak Kunwar, an officer at the Food Technology and Quality Control Office in Dhangadhi.
Meanwhile, locals have been demanding an investigation into the tender process of relief materials, claiming that the contractor company and Dhangadhi Sub Metropolitan City were working in collusion. The sub metropolitan city had purchased food grains worth Rs 26.1 million to distribute to the impoverished households during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hari Shankar Thakur, the proprietor of the suppliers, admitted that some of the rice sacks were of substandard quality.
“I had purchased rice in a large quantity. So some might have gone bad. I am ready to face legal action,” said Thakur.
Nripa Odd, mayor of Dhangadhi Sub Metropolitan City, said, “We have stopped relief distribution in all 19 wards for the time being. We will support the investigation team formed by the District Administration Office for further investigation.”
Chief District Office Yagyaraj Bohara said the local administration is regarding the issue seriously. “The investigation team is looking into the tender process. We will take strong action against anybody if found guilty,” said Bohara.
On Wednesday, the investigation team directed the administration to put the contractor on the blacklist according to the Public Procurement Act 2007 and take action against the contractor based on the prevalent legal system of the country. According to existing laws, those involved in distributing substandard food items will either be sentenced to jail for three years or fined Rs50,000, or be liable to both.
A week ago, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority in Mahendranagar had also raided the Dhangadhi Sub Metropolitan City Office and seized necessary documents of the procurement process.