PDS : Proven Deceitful System

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Samarjit Kambam
It’s heartwarming to learn that the state government has come up with its own Anti-Corruption Cell. Some small fish are being caught in the net of the Cell such as peons, lower division clerks and lower level assistants of some government departments. It is a welcome step anyway. But the people are yet to be convinced whether the big fish who amass crores and crores of taxpayers’ money will ever be caught in the net of the Anti-Corruption Cell and brought to book.

One intrinsic example of some big fish being caught in the net is the confiscation of huge quantity of rice from a godown of St Marks Higher Secondary School at Sangaiprou accumulated by some transport contractors and suppliers. This time, its not the anti-Corruption Cell but the volunteers of Manipur Students’ Federation (MSF) who did a splendid job by carrying out a special drive against the prevailing rice mafia. Here, it is pertinent to mention that the MSF volunteers did not find out about the private godown and the devious activities carried out by the stakeholders concerned overnight or by pure coincidence. The drive was carried out after information had been culled from various sources, after many days of homework.

It is a known fact that the PDS has always remained a fiasco since day one of its inception in Manipur. Public of respective Assembly Constituencies who are beneficiaries are not getting their requisite share of rice from Fair Price Shops at the rate of Rs. 3 per kilo which they truly deserve. Instead, the rice meant for distribution to the beneficiaries are sold in the open market at Rs. 20 to 25 per kilo and when it comes in terms of quintals, just do the math. Jaw-dropping easy money harnessed, illegally. Many complaints on non-receipt of PDS rice was put up from various fronts and by the public in newspapers and mass media but so far no tangible and positive result has yielded.

In our state of Manipur, petty thieves such as a cycle lifter, mobile snatcher, pick-pocketeers are severely beaten and lynched to death by a mob. The writer doesn’t encourage stealing but I want to bring out to the fore that these small time thieves are the ones who live in abject penury and lifting a cycle, snatching a mobile or an item from a shop is directly proportional to an empty stomach, for livelihood, and the consequence is that they usually end up as corpse from an unruly mob. From a technical point of view, a thief which plunders in terms of crores is equivalent to a thousand petty thieves. To them, its not about livelihood or an empty stomach but their desire to earn and accrue more and more with greed overcoming decent and honest living. Lets call a petty thief as David and a mammoth one as Goliath. In the case of David there are mobs galore to deliver instant justice with the David ending up as a body bag and the law enforcers arriving at the end of the unruly scene. Mobocracy rules the roost for those Davids and it is a known fact that when it comes to a mob, there is no rationality. Where has the mob gone for the Goliaths? Gone to pay respect to them? And in case of Goliaths the law enforcers always come to their rescue even before a mob builds up. This is the ironical and pathetic status quo prevailing in our state. In the story of David and Goliath, David emerged as the winner in the battleground of the deadly duel. Here, in Manipur, in the stealing ground, Goliath always emerges as the winner.
Manipur is a land filled with enigma. In Manipur, a villain can always become a hero. The good ones are despised whereas the bad and ugly ones are respected and supported and placed high on the pedestal. In the domain of politics also, regardless of the Anti-Defection Bill, the politicians spring foot from one party to another. Mention may be made of some Congress MLAs who recently hopped into the bandwagon of BJP and yet remain as Congress MLAs. Mystery, mystery.

What really perturbs the people is the series of developments where instead of booking the culprits, the MSF was being counter charged from the diabolic and opposite end i.e. the transport contractors and suppliers to clarify on the issue of opening the pandora’s box of PDS producing documents signed by DSO, Imphal West Well, signatures of higher authorities to dump the rice at a particular private godown is a non issue to the Goliaths. Such signatures can be obtained at midnight after the respective offices have been closed dated ex-facto. For such Goliaths, rescue always comes from the very system itself which is the main stumbling block to a free and fair service for the public. It has been categorically mentioned that the FCI godown has been packed to the limit and so the rice was being stored at private godowns. A very supportive answer. But what about the answer of the question for storing them for more so many days without distributing to the beneficiaries?
The new BJP government, no doubt, is a faster runner than the previous Congress government as the present government is being prodded every now and then by the ruling BJP government at the centre under the helm of Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi who himself is a man of action. The dilemma is that he sometimes takes wrong action at the right time and right action at the wrong time. When it comes to wiping out corruption once and for all, simply opening an Anti-Corruption Cell for catching peons and lower division clerks won’t suffice. A bigger net to catch the bigger fish is required, I mean the higher level ones. The Cell elucidates that it needs the public’s support in catching the big fish. Course, its true. In Manipur it is the public who hands money to the big shots in a platter for government jobs, contracts deeds, transfer orders etc. However, there is still a ghost in the system. Instances of corruptions are going on unabated among the high level bureaucrats, ministers and big shots where their hush-a-hush affairs are beyond the realm of the public rendering the Anti-Corruption Cell to become a deadbeat one. Truly speaking, those hot shots are exonerated from being guilty and still immune to anti-corruption whatever and are carrying out their corrupt deeds at impunity, at will. It is a known fact. No need to elaborate on the matter.
My appreciation goes to the members of MSF for their whole hearted efforts in bringing out to the fray the fiasco of Public Distribution System which has been going on relentlessly for many years with the beneficiaries not getting their rightful share. The recent issue is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more skeletons in the cupboard. Hope the PDS is carried out in our state in letter and spirit after all the scums involved in the rice mafia of PDS of our state are brought to book at the earliest.

(The writer can be reached at [email protected])

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