Before the Samajwadi Party could handle charges of a land allotment scam in Uttar Pradesh, Union Minister Kapil Sibal fired another salvo, this time accusing the Mulayam Singh Yadav government of presiding over a multi-crore food–grains scandal in the state.
He accused the regime of perpetuating a "systematic loot" of the state by diverting to Nepal and Bangladesh food-grains meant for below-poverty-line (BPL) people under the food-for-work programme.
Sibal demanded a CBI inquiry in to the scandal. According to him, the scam, which took place between August-December 2004 when the Food and Civil Supplies department was headed by Raghu Raj Pratap Singh, saw private firms siphoning off the food-grains with the help of government officials.
"The state government and its officers in conspiracy with private players deprived the poor people of UP of foodgrains under the Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana. This could not have happened without the active connivance of high functionaries in the state," Sibal alleged.
"Ninety per cent of the food-grains given by the Centre never reached the beneficiaries… These were lifted by the food-mafia instead of the fair price ship owners and then sold in the black market. The public distribution scheme was subverted," he charged.
Sibal said that district magistrates of 30 districts wrote to the state government intimating misappropriation of food-grains from their areas. The misappropriation occurred in Gonda, Mahmoodabad, Basti, Nakaha Jungle, Biswan, Barabanki, Sultanpur, Akbarpur, Sitapur and Allahabad. The magnitude of the scam was reflected in the fact that the inquiry report of November 23, 2004 found Rs 457 crores misappropriated in Gonda alone.
The minister substantiated his charges by releasing copies of the letters giving details of the movement of railway rakes for transporting wheat and rice to various destinations abroad.
One such letter was from PC Chaturvedi, Principal Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies to the railway authorities expressing concern that indents for "very large number" of railway rakes have been placed by various private parties to move wheat and rice to Bangladesh.
"We are concerned about this information because presently the stocks of wheat/rice in the open market in UP are not such as to fulfill the required loading capacity of these rakes. One of the possibilities is that food grains provided by the Central government under various schemes are being diverted by vested interests through railway rakes to Bangladesh," Chaturvedi wrote on November 16, 2004.
The CM recommended a CBI inquiry into the Gonda incident but later withdrew it. "Other than in Gonda district no other inquiries for other districts were ordered," he said.
He also said that that most of the registration numbers of the trucks in which the grains were transported turned out to be of scooters, motorcycles and cars.
Keeping up the attack on Mulayam over the land allotment scam, Sibal dismissed the theory that the draw of lots and said that when he spoke of the scandal he was targeting the state government and not any individual person.
He said this when asked about former Chief Justice of India YK Sabherwal’s strong reaction to the allegation that his daughter figured in the list of allottees in Noida. "If the draw of lots theory is to be believed then how was it possible that seven members of Flex industries, four advocate generals of UP and only SP MPs and MLAs got plots?" he asked.