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Pala demands independent probe into rice scam

Shillong, June 17: Congress MP Vincent Pala on Thursday demanded an independent inquiry into the alleged foodgrain scam.

Alluding to Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong’s lockdown diet comment last month, Pala told reporters here that NPP “had recently advised people to consume rice and vegetables but how will people survive if the rice is diverted and are left with only vegetables to eat”.

“My request to the state government is that it should set up an independent inquiry to come out clean since it (allegation related to the rice scam) has come out in the media and that a case has already been registered in Assam,” he added.

The Assam police recently seized 1 lakh bags of rice meant for Meghalaya from a private warehouse in Boko in Kamrup district. Each bag contained 50 kg of rice. However, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has denied the allegations.

Reacting to this, the Shillong MP said the chief minister cannot make such a claim. “The press cannot go and access government files. If you can access the file you can see from where the demand comes from, where supply comes and where it is being utilized, where it has been used or consumed – then only people will be satisfied with it,” he added.

The Food Corporation of India (FCI), Shillong, has also rejected its role in the rice diversion (read https://meghalayamonitor.com/index.php/2021/06/15/fci-denies-role-in-rice-diversion-in-assam/).

Pala said if the state government is saying nothing has happened and that it has already lifted the quota from FCI, “the question is how they are utilising the rice allotted for midday meal in view of the closure of the schools in the state”.

“…may be because there must have been excess rice, they must have misused it, I don’t know but that the inquiry will tell,” he added.

According to him, 2,560 tonne of rice is being allotted to the state on a quarterly basis for over 3.85 lakh students in primary schools and 1.5 lakh students in upper primary schools.

Pala also criticised the United Democratic Party (UDP) and BJP, two of the partners in the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance, for maintaining silence on the issue.

“UDP is very active on the MeECL issue where I have seen Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh and Jemino Mawthoh writing to the CM for setting up an independent inquiry but not on this issue. Therefore, UDP has to come out clean as it is holding this portfolio,” he said.

“BJP is also silent on this issue despite the matter being related to the midday meal and supplementary nutrition programme of the Centre. There is a need for the government to give a proper explanation and clear the air.

“Citizens are confused whether the rice belongs to the Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, the Social Welfare Department, midday meal or the supplementary nutrition programme. People have lost their trust in the government so the only way is that they should set up an independent inquiry,” he added.

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