Centre gives excuses to stop buying rice, says TS minister
Deccan Chronicle. | DC Correspondent
BJP led regime finds lame excuses' to stop procurement from TS, says Gangula Kamalakar
Telangana minister found fault with FCI for threatening to stop rice procurement. (Photo: AFP)
Hyderabad: The Telangana government and the Centre engaged in a fresh tussle on the issue of rice procurement on Wednesday with the civil supplies minister Gangula Kamalakar charging the BJP-led government at the Centre of finding ‘lame excuses’ to stop procurement from Telangana. He found fault with FCI for threatening to stop rice procurement.
He said 'missing rice bags' from rice mills pertained to previous year's rabi crop across the state and state government stopping implementation of PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana scheme since April this year.
Kamalakar stated that the FCI had sent a letter to state government on Tuesday levelling 'baseless allegations' which proved that the Centre wanted to create troubles to Telangana government on rice procurement under one pretext or the other and Centre's malafide intention was to stop rice procurement from Telangana for 'lame reasons'.
He said the FCI accused the state government of not initiating action against errant rice millers in its letter. "The FCI carried out a physical inspection of rice mills to assess rice stocks in March this year in the first phase. It inspected just 40 mills randomly in six districts while Telangana state has 3,007 mills with 40.63 crore rice bags. The FCI told the state government that their inspections had detected nearly 4.54 lakh rice bags were missing. We immediately alerted collectors and civil supplies officials in districts to cross check whether it was correct or not," the minister said.
"The FCI officials, along with our officials, conducted inspections again and found that nearly 1.58 lakh rice bags were not missing and admitted error in their findings. These inspections found that there were no irregularities in 30 out of 40 mills inspected by the FCI. Only 10 mills had defaulted. Of them, the state government booked criminal cases on three mills and recovered missing stocks from another two mills. For the remaining five mills, district collectors were asked to invoke the Revenue Recovery Act and recover stocks. I ask the FCI to take note of all these facts and tell where the state government neglected action against errant rice millers. They are talking about just 2.96 lakh missing rice bags out of 40.43 crore bags which account for negligible amounts. It's the state government which spent money for procurement and it's the responsibility of the state government to recover arrears if any. What is the FCI going to lose in this? The FCI only pays for whatever rice stocks we hand over to them," Kamalakar added.
The FCI again conducted inspection of 63 mills in the second phase and wrote to the state government on June 4 stating that 60 mills had defaulted on rice stocks, he said. "We immediately issued instructions to all district collectors to verify the claims of the FCI and invoke the RR Act to recover stocks from those mills. It's just four days since the FCI informed us about this," he said.
"Where does the question of the state government delaying action against rice mills arise?" Kamalakar asked.
Referring to the FCI's charge of the state government stopping the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana scheme from April this year, he explained, "The state government implemented PM's scheme in first phase from April-November 2020 and the second phase from June 2021 to April 2022. The Centre asked the state government to implement the third phase from this April. It has written to the state government only on March 22 about this. It takes time to procure rice to implement this scheme due to which we could not implement it in April and May this year. We have already decided to implement this scheme from June 18 to 26 after procuring necessary stocks. While the Centre asked the state to implement this scheme till September 2022, we have decided to extend this till November 2022 to make up for the loss of April and May," Kamalakar said.
He reminded that the Centre had been only giving Rs 5 kg free rice under PM's scheme for only 53 lakh ration card holders in the state but Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao had extended this scheme to an additional 40 lakh card holders. "The state government bore an additional burden of `4,720 crore on the PM's scheme. We even gave `1,500 cash to each ration card holder in April and May 2020 during the Covid first wave which neither the Centre nor any other state government gave. How can FCI accuse us of not implementing the PM's scheme?" he questioned.
He alleged that the FCI's baseless charges on the Telangana government were part of the Centre's 'larger conspiracy' to target Telangana, show discrimination, and create troubles for the state and farmers by stopping rice procurement under one pretext or the other.
Kamalakar said the state government would send a letter to the FCI on Thursday giving replies to the charges levelled by it on us and demand it to continue rice procurement till it meets its procurement target of 70 lakh metric tonnes of rice pertaining to the previous rabi season.