Missing Rice

Even as the commander of the Army’s Srinagar-based 15th Corps lauded Kashmiri youth for the valour they displayed in rescuing people trapped in floods, 10,000 quintals of state-supplied rice meant for the displaced have gone missing, painting another picture of Kashmir.  Loaded in fifty-one trucks, the grain disappeared shortly after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced free rations for flood victims. Predictably, the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution department, has pleaded ignorance of the whole affair, and ordered a probe. The supplies were allegedly dumped by truck drivers when the city was facing a shortage of rice, but senior officers of the department maintain that people looted the vehicles after the government announcement.

Presumably in league with some officials, many truck drivers have turned up with receipts from local auqaf committees to whom the grain has supposedly been delivered.  The department has refused to admit the receipts, suspecting their integrity. Besides the missing grain, the CAPD brass faces problems on other fronts. For instance, authorities have issued no formal orders for free distribution of rice. The issue had assumed importance last week when the High Court took cognizance and passed key directions.

People deprived of rations have accused the police of engineering the loot, saying that it (the police) unloaded around fifty bags of rice from each vehicle and then sent the trucks to various areas where loot was engineered through unscrupulous elements. This allegation also needs to be probed to bring the truth to the surface.

Moreover, there was absolutely no need of handing over the suppplies to auqaf committees for distribution. Rather, recourse should have been taken to activating the system in place for the purpose. It auqaf committees had to be involved at all, their role should have been confined to keeping an eye on the distribution process and the officials handling it.

Losing 10,000 quintals of rice without trace in times of great distress is a tragedy speaking of an impending free-for-all in subsequent relief and rehabilitation efforts. The government can salvage a bit of itself from the floods if it tracks down the culprits, and determines what happened to the rice that probably formed a part of six months of rations for flood sufferers

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