To hide the theft of wheat, bags were soaked here on Sunday night to bring their weight to original.
An official of Punjab Agro Industries Corporation (PAIC) has been charged with pilfering the stock. The HT team that found water being sprinkled on the stock alerted the deputy commissioner at night over telephone about what it saw at the PAIC warehouse. The DC KK Yadav sent tehsildar Kuldip Singh, deputy superintendent of police (city) Gurmeet Singh Kingra, DSP Ranjit Singh, station house officer of Kot Fatta, and the crime investigation agency (CIA) team to the site.
In the raid that came around 8.15pm on Sunday, the Bathinda police caught a labourer sprinkling water on the stock from a pipe. He told the police he had been doing it on the orders of the man in charge of the warehouse, PAIC sub-inspector Sukhdev Singh Walia. On the complaint of district food and supplies officer, Parveen Vij, a case was registered against Walia under Section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at Kot Fatta.
"Walia is involved in wheat pilferage for the past five years," said Bhupinder Singh, SHO of Kot Fatta. "He would steal bags of wheat and get water sprinkled on the rest to increase the stock's weight to original. A packed wheat bag weighs 50 kilograms. Walia was in charge of the warehouse where more than 23,000 bags of procured wheat had been stored." The police are interrogating labourers.
Four submersible motors were installed in different parts of the warehouse to draw water from the ground and wet the stock. The district manger of Punjab Agro, BP Singh, reacted to the development by claiming his office was investigating the matter and higher authorities had been informed. "The submersible motors are there to draw water in case of fire," he said.
The procured wheat is stored in the warehouses of procurement agencies such as Punjab Agro Industry Corporation (PAIC)
Wheat is pilfered and water is poured on the rest of the bags to make these heavier to the original level (done after rain usually to make the dampness look genuine)
The wet stock goes to the central pool after inspection by the Food Corporation of India (FCI)
Every year, the scam makes premier food agencies lose stock worth crores of rupees in the state (Earlier, the HT highlighted a similar scam at the FCI warehoue of Rampura Phul).