State seems unwilling to book scamsters in tea gardens

A Rs 270- crore scam has been unearthed and the culprits identified. But, the state government seems to have no nerve to book the culprits even as the state exchequer continues to lose more than Rs 2.5 crore a month.

One-and-a-half months after he informed the media about a food scam in closed tea gardens of North Bengal, Jyotipriya Mullick, the state food minister, on Friday reiterated the same allegation while failing to tell what visible action the cashstrapped state government has taken to stop the siphoning off of government money.

Mullick on January 17 said, "The total number of workers and non-workers in closed tea gardens is 17,500 whereas the state government is providing

Rs 2 a kg rice to 91,000 people in closed tea gardens."

By doing this, the state government is loosing more than Rs 2.5 crore a month, he had said then. Accusing the erstwhile state government, Mallick had said that the Left Front government had exaggerated the number of workers and casual labourers in closed tea gardens.

As a result of which the state government is still providing Rs 2 a kg rice to additional 73,500 fictitious beneficiaries in closed tea gardens. On Friday also after holding a meeting with the officials of food department, the minister reiterated the same allegation. He said, "The anomalies must come to an end."

On January 17 too, he said the same thing and had informed the media that a joint survey by the departments of labour, food and North Bengal development department would soon be carried out.

On Friday he said the survey would soon be carried out. He also said that he would hold a meeting with the owners of five closed tea gardens in Kolkata next month. State labour minister and North Bengal development minister would also attend the meeting, he said.

He explained that anomalies in regard to the number of workers and non-workers in closed tea gardens and the total number of beneficiaries of state government's heavily subsidised food scheme for them is on since 2004. As a result the state government is losing Rs 2.5 crore monthly.

Sources said the beneficiaries included a section of political leaders, tea garden owners and government officials.

According to the minister's own estimate, till January 17 the state government had lost more than Rs 270 crore and the monthly loss was Rs 2.5 crore.

Since January 17, the state government has already lost more than Rs 3.5 crore. However the state government fails to take stern action to plug the leak.


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