Dealers go rogue with OMS rice
At a time when consumers are hit hard by high prices of rice, a section of government-appointed dealers allegedly sold rice, meant for Open Market Sale programme, in the market.
Three dealers in Rajshahi's Durgapur upazila showed on paper that they had sold rice on Wednesday at a subsidised rate under the OMS programme. But locals there alleged that they couldn't buy any rice from the dealers that day.
Taking advantage of lax monitoring by food officials, the dealers had sold three tonnes of rice -- the total allocation for OMS on Wednesday -- on the black market, as none of the dealers was seen selling rice, said a number of locals in Durgapur.
The government has fixed the price of OMS rice at Tk 30 a kg, around Tk 20 less than the current market price.
Learning about the launch of OMS programme in the upazila on Wednesday, college teacher Mizanur Rahman shuttled between the three dealers' outlets the whole afternoon but found that none of them was selling OMS rice till 5:00pm.
“Where would they sell the rice other than the black market?” asked Mizanur.
Two of the dealers told him that they would start the OMS sale yesterday as they could not collect their allocations from government warehouses in time.
“I didn't see anyone selling OMS rice on Wednesday,” said Abbas Ali, who runs a grocery shop in front of the OMS shop of Bazlur Rahman, one of the three dealers.
Md Abdus Salam Biswas, food controller in the upazila, however, claimed that the OMS rice was sold in the presence of food officials.
“The monitoring officials did not report any irregularity,” he said.
Contacted, the monitoring officials, however, came up with confusing statements.
Ruhul Amin, upazila youth development officer, said he didn't go to the OMS shop of dealer Rustom Ali at Durgapur Bazar on Wednesday, as the dealer had told him that he would start the sale the following day.
Yesterday, Ruhul sent his subordinate official Kibria Hossain to the shop. Kibria signed Wednesday's sale record of one tonne of OMS rice though the locals alleged that no OMS rice was sold at the shop that day.
Kibria said he put his signature on the document under pressure from Rustom, who has blessings of local leaders of the ruling party.
Rustom, however, refuted the allegations and claimed that OMS rice was sold properly on Wednesday.
There were also conflicting statements from another dealer, Bazlur Rahman, in Shalgaria area and the official tasked with monitoring the OMS sale.
Bazlur claimed that he had sold one tonne of rice in two hours from 3:00pm to 5:00pm on Wednesday, but monitoring official Suja-ud-Doula said the sale took place between 9:00am and 1:00pm.
Locals in the area, however, said no OMS rice was sold at the outlet that day.
Asked, Abdus Salam, district food controller for Naogaon and Rajshahi, told The Daily Star, "I cannot tell you right away what is happening in Rajshahi, as I am in Naogaon.”
Salam has been carrying out the additional duty of Rajshahi district food controller for the last eight months as the government is yet to appoint food controller there.
Salam said he would look into the allegations.
In Rajshahi city, this correspondent visited the shop of dealer Golam Sarker at C&B intersection on Wednesday afternoon.
The dealer said he began OMS rice sale at 1:00pm and closed his shop at 6:00pm.
Sarker also said he had sold 35 kg of rice from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. He, however, showed on paper that he sold 500 kg of rice that day.
Buyers in the city complained of difficulty in finding OMS shops, as some of the dealers didn't operate at the scheduled places. They alleged that the dealers deliberately did so to deceive the customers and sell the rice later on the black market.
The shop of dealer Wahed Ali was found at Upashahar New Market, two km from the scheduled spot at New City Bhaban intersection, while the outlet of another dealer, Prodip Kabiraj, was found at Resompatti, around 500 metres away from the scheduled Alupatti area.
The outlet of dealer Amjad Hossain was inside a saw mill at the Match Factory Intersection, instead of the scheduled place at BSCIC Intersection.
Dealer Wahed said that since they are well-known OMS dealers, the buyers would not have any difficulty to find them.
This year, the OMS dealers in the city are selling rice at shops, not from trucks as they did in the past, on the excuse that it costs much higher to sell rice from trucks, say food officials.
4,000 TONNES OF RICE SEIZED IN CTG
A mobile court yesterday seized around 4,000 tonnes of rice from a warehouse in Chittagong city and detained its manager for hoarding rice.
The mobile court, led by Executive Magistrate Syed Morad Ali, raided the warehouse of Ahmed Trading in the port city's Sagorika BSCIC area around 2:00pm.
Warehouse Manager Abu Taher was detained for hoarding the coarse rice, brought from Myanmar by importer Masud and Brothers, at the warehouse for 39 days, said the magistrate.
“According to the law, a warehouse can keep goods of any firm for only a month. But Ahmed Trading was found hoarding 4,000 tonnes of rice of Masud and Brothers for 39 days,” Morad said.
The warehouse was sealed off, and the rice was handed over to Pahartali Police Station, he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, a mobile court carried out a drive in the port city's Narikeltola area and fined a warehouse Tk 10,000 for stocking 2,154 sacks of rice for 38 days.
The previous day, another mobile court fined the manager of a business concern Tk 1 lakh for storing rice illegally in Chaktai area.