The Union government has taken seriously the allegations of impropriety and corruption in exporting rice to select African countries in 2008, relaxing a ban on exports that existed then.
“We are looking into the matter and all files related to the transaction have been called for. We are studying the matter and shall decide on the future course of action,” a senior government functionary told HT but did not want to be named. He did not rule out the possibility of a full inquiry into the deal.
Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, the Left
and BJP had accused the UPA government of promoting the interest of private exporters at the cost of the country’s food security.
“The Government of India banned the export of non-basmati rice in 2007. Subsequently, we witnessed a steep rise in the rice prices in the international market. More than 20 African nations were then exempted from the ban. On their requests, some of these countries named some private traders ….who were allowed to procure foodgrains at lower prices and to sell at higher prices, thereby making huge profits,” (sic) said D. Raja of the CPI, supported by Sitaram Yechury of the CPM and Balbir Punj of the BJP.
The UPA had an unblemished track record during its first tenure, but the sudden whiff of a scandal can be hardly comforting for the Congress. The decision to ban rice export in 2007 was hailed as a pro-poor measure, but the exemptions allowed to some countries and traders have come back to haunt the UPA in its second innings.