Salt Scam checked in Chhattisgarh
The Raman Singh led BJP government in Chhattisgarh has finally reined in unscrupulous salt traders who were busy making a fast buck, reports Ejaz Kaiser.Updated: Feb 02, 2007, 15:53 IST
The Raman Singh led BJP government in Chhattisgarh has finally reined in unscrupulous salt traders who were busy making a fast buck on subsidised salt meant for the poor in this predominant tribal State.
The salt scam rife in the rural and tribal areas of the State, which, till recently raked in lakhs of Rupees for traders capitalising on non-acceptance of 25 and 50 paise coins in the State has now been countered by the State Government which has decided to provide four kilograms of salt to the poor at the rate of Rs One.
In one of its populist welfare schemes the state BJP government is providing two kilo of ‘Amrit Namak (salt)’ per family to over 26 lakh tribal and BPL families across the state every month at a price of 25 paise per kg. But due to the continuing practice of non-acceptance of 25 paise or 50 paise coins, the tribal and poor family ended up paying more. Cumulatively the business class reaped ‘unjustified’ additional profit of Rs 12.5 lakh every month from such target families.
In case a tribal protested, the trader would then hand him a matchbox with a beedi bundle along with the salt packet, to make up for the ‘loss’, which again was a win-win situation for the sharp eyed trader.
Taking cognizance of such unscrupulous traders, entrusted with supplying the salt to the poor tribals, the state government has now ensured four kg of salt delivery to every family at a cost of just Re One.
Talking to Hindustan Times, MK Raut, who was the then Secretary for Food and Civil Supplies said, “Now we tried to do away with such wrongdoing and quota of salt to target families is increased to four kg which they can purchase for two months at a time, as against two kg sanctioned earlier”.
The state government was in a tight spot whether to increase the price of salt to 50 paise per kg since it would yield a fertile ground for opposition to make an issue out of it.
In Chhattisgarh it has been seen that right from the poorest of the poor to the richest, no one, not even the banks, shopkeepers and the public at large are willing to accept or transact in small change of 25 paise or 50 paise. Ironically it persists despite clear directives from the Reserve Bank of India that, ‘all small denomination coins are legal tender and not accepting them would be an offence.’
But it still seems that old habits die hard since despite the state government’s move to rein-in such practices, reports of salt traders continuing to reap in extra bucks in remote tribal areas persists.