Diversion Of Food-for-Work Rice In Andhra Rattles Naidu

Hyderabad: | Updated: Aug 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
Facing charges of embezzlement in the Food-for-Work (FFW) programme run by his government, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has acknowledged the growing instances of political and official corruption in the state.

A survey done by the Centre for Good Governance (CCG) has reportedly revealed that political corruption might have seeped into the socio-economic programmes of the state government, including FFW and the Sampurna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY).

While accepting that there have been irregularities, Mr Naidu refrained from giving in to the demand made by the Opposition for a CBI enquiry. Two of Mr Naidus cabinet colleagues are allegedly involved in diverting rice meant for the FFW programme.

Mr Naidu is being accused of forcing the Centre to release more free rice for the FFW schemes. At the same time, pressure is also being mounted on the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to increase procurement from farmers. Politicians belonging to the ruling Telugu Desam Party, along with middlemen and contractors, have been accused of selling free rice meant for FFW schemes back to FCI for a price. In the process they are making a killing, it is being alleged.

Going by records, the Andhra Pradesh government has drawn 31.50 lakh tonne of rice towards the FFW programme from the central government and has utilised the rice as a portion of wage to be paid to workers. The FFW is aimed at preventing migration of labour from drought-affected villages.

The Engineering Staff College of India (ESCI) and Department of Vigilance and Enforcement have separately inspected the FFW work being done. They found irregularities in 2,917 cases against 34,441 inspections done. The survey also pointed to certain loopholes in the Janmabhoomi and FFW programmes.

According to a senior government official, the FFW work was carried out on a war footing without any additional staff. A work valued at over Rs 3,500 crore was done with the existing staff in the panchayat raj and revenue department, he said. Over 80 per cent of the irregularities committed by the staff are said to be of petty nature, such as not maintaining the muster, giving rice coupons in bunches etc., the official said. However, he was silent on queries about the lorries caught by the police while smuggling FFW rice to a neighbouring state as well as to FCI godowns.