The CBI on Wednesday launched ‘Operation Kanak’ on alleged corruption in the Food Corporation of India, conducting searches at 50 locations in Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi after arresting a DGM-rank officer from Chandigarh, officials said.
The CBI booked a total of 74 accused in the FIR, including FCI Executive Director Sudeep Singh, after a six-month-long undercover operation to identify suspects in the syndicate of officials, rice mill owners and middlemen, among others who were allegedly indulging in corrupt practices, they said.
Deputy General Manager (DGM) of FCI Rajiv Kumar Mishra was arrested for allegedly receiving a bribe of Rs 50,000 from one Ravinder Singh Khera, proprietor of Guru Kripa Rice and Agro Industries, the CBI said, adding the role of senior officers of Punjab government is also under scanner for running ‘benami’ warehouses outsourced to the FCI.
Khera was also taken into custody.
Among the 74 accused, 34 are serving officials, three are retired, 17 private people and 20 entities, officials said, adding that the agency has recovered Rs 80 lakh in cash, including Rs 10 lakh from a female officer, which was hidden in a washing machine.
Sources said the agency has started the operation against an “unholy nexus of corruption” in the FCI involving a chain of officers, rice mill owners, and grain merchants, engaged in the procurement, storage and distribution of food grains.
The agency alleged that huge bribe was paid to FCI officials for extending favours to the private nexus operators.
“It was further alleged that private rice millers and grain merchants were paying bribes to FCI officials for getting favours in accommodating procurement of low quality foodgrains, malpractices in day-to-day operations in unloading of foodgrains, managing enquiries against various malpractices, etc,” a CBI spokesperson said in a statement.
He said the accused officials in conspiracy with rice millers allegedly covered up the shortages in stocks and accept low quality foodgrains which are transported to other parts of the country.
“The rice millers in turn allegedly pay a huge amount of bribe to the officials of FCI, including technical assistants, DGM, AGM, and even the executive director, as part of channelised corruption,” he said.
It is alleged that the accused officials were receiving bribes from silos operators and rice millers in extending favours during tendering process as well, he said.
Their illicit actions cheated farmers by forcing them to sell their product through the syndicate and end consumers as well who were getting sub-standard grains under the Public Distribution System, the CBI alleged.
The agency also alleged officials showed more procurement on paper than what was available in warehouses.
The role of officials from technical assistants to executive directors in the FCI are under the agency’s scanner, officials said.
They said the operation is spread across multiple cities in Punjab, Haryana and two locations in Delhi.
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