ED to probe UP food grain scam

The Enforcement Directorate has decided to probe money laundering charges and foreign exchange violations in the multi-crore Uttar Pradesh food grain scam.

Last Updated: Dec 07, 2010, 18:54 PM IST

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate has
decided to probe money laundering charges and foreign exchange
violations in the multi-crore Uttar Pradesh food grain scam.

Official sources said the Directorate`s probe into
the scam will bring under the scanner a number of officials
associated with various schemes whereby grains meant for the
poor were allegedly diverted to other states and sold in
retail market besides making its way out of the country.
Sources said because of the magnitude of the scam,
which is said to run into about Rs 35,000 crore, the ED will
focus on violations of money laundering laws.

Also, since it is believed that the grains made its
way to neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh, the
government`s apex agency for money laundering and foreign
exchange violations cases, will also look into possible
contraventions of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

The Allahabad High Court in its order on December 3,
had directed ED to proceed with search and seizure of assets,
property, cash or kind meant for the welfare programmes being
siphoned off by the officials. The court had also sought
expeditious action under the PMLA and FEMA or any other law
being in force.

The CBI had on November 3, 2008 registered nine cases
in connection with the scam relating to diversion of
food grains meant for the poor.

The Mayawati government, on assuming office had
recommended a CBI probe into the food grain scam on December 1,
2007.

However, the CBI has now been directed by the Court
to proceed with further enquiry not only with regard to
Ballia, Lakhimpur and Sitapur but also with regard to
Varanasi, Gonda and Lucknow districts.

The court had also directed that all those cases where
the state agencies found that the food grains have been
smuggled outside the state to other countries, they shall
immediately refer such cases to the CBI for further
investigation.
Earlier, after detection of a large scale bungling in
supply of food grains under various schemes including
Antyodaya, Sampurana Gramin Swarojgar Yojna during 2002-2005,
the then Samajwadi Party government had ordered a probe by the
states Economic Offence Wing (EOW) in 2006.

The probe found that foodgrains meant for the poor
was diverted to West Bengal from where it was smuggled to
Bangladesh.

Besides fair price shops, many senior officers and
some leading businessmen of West Bengal and even across the
border were involved in the scam, sources said.

The food cell of the EOW had then lodged over 50
cases relating to foodscam in Ballia district alone, besides
in other districts.

The SIT in its fact finding report has said there are
evidence of the scam running in about 41 districts.

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar put the onus on
states to reach the foodgrains to the poor.

"My job is to procure and allot foodgrains to the states
and it is states` job to allot to the needy people. So if the
issue has been raised by court, then they will take
appropriate decision... Let us wait and see what the
investigation report is," he said stressing "it is the
responsibility of the State".

CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechuri said, "Whether it
is food grain scam in UP or some other scam in any other
state, these scams were mushrooming all over. So the system
needs to be cleansed and corrected and that can only be done
if you have a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into the
whole thing."

D Raja of the CPI said, "It is for government to take
into serious consideration and order for a correct probe
because the rice meant for certain African countries did not
reach there but rice was exported, was sold and someone in the
middle made money, profit. So it needs to be investigated."
BJP considered the scam as a crime against people and
demanded severe punishment to the accused.

"We see it as a crime against people, poorest of the
poor. It needs to be investigated into...action should be
taken against those who have done the major heartless crime.
Punishment should be severe so that the people don`t think it
is possible to do a crime like this and get away with it,"
BJP`s spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.

The party is in favour of comprehensive enquiry into this
matter, she said.

PTI