New Delhi: Following a raid after a tip-off, officials of the vigilance and civil supplies department in Vishakhapatnam on Monday seized over 1,200 kilograms of rice bags meant for the government’s mid-day meal scheme from the premises of an ISKCON temple, said reports. The rice bags were allegedly being diverted to a private firm in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, as also to African countries.
The rice is provided by the government to ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) as it is a partner in the mid-day meal programme, which is run by the Akshaya Patra Foundation, that supplies the meals to government school children.
Even though ISKCON has denied the allegations, claiming that the rice bags were donated by its devotees, Visakhapatnam civil supplies department officials on Thursday submitted a detailed report to district collector V Vinay Chand, according to a report in The New Indian Express.
“The officials are awaiting orders from the Collector to lodge a criminal case against those involved in the scam,” the report said.
Civil supplies officials seized a total stock of 396 bags of rice in plastic gunny bags and 888 bags of rice in civil supplies gunny bags along with the lorry, the report said.
According to the report, the Vizag vigilance officials also suspect that the rice was being diverted into the export market.
“…It is learnt that V&E officials in Kakinada have found that the rice was allegedly being exported to African countries through a private export company. Letters written as ‘Saelony’, ‘Long Grain Riz Blanc Indien’ indicate that it is a variety of French language used in some of the African countries,” The New Indian Express report said.
It also cited an accountant at the ISKCON temple saying that they always accept donations in cash.
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“While the ISKCON officials have said that the rice came from donors, the accountant at the ISKCON said they only take cash and not rice as donation. Also the bags that were said to be brought from Poorna Market were found in Kakinada; they were also said to be manufactured in Kakinada,” the V&E officer was quoted as saying.
In fact, the vigilance officials claimed that they also found over 300 empty rice bags inside the temple premises.
“The letters on the bags written ‘Export’ to Sri Sitaramanajaneya, Kakinada, shows that it is an export company in Kakinada. There is also a company with the same name, which is into export business. However, we are yet to get more details during our investigation,” DSP and in-charge Regional Vigilance and Enforcement Officer of Visakhapatnam district K Sravani said, while speaking to TNIE.
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In an earlier report, Vizag vigilance department officials also found that the temple had not maintained the stock register after March this year.
After the raids and seizure of the lorry number AP 31TT0457 near ISKCON’s Sagar Nagar office on which the rice bags were loaded, the National Herald report quoted vigilance inspector Mallikarjuna Rao as saying that on questioning the lorry owner, Gavara Eswar Rao, and his aide, Sanyasi Rao, it was found that the mid-day meal rice was being packaged and the stock was supposed to be shifted to Kakinada.
A case under Essential Commodities Act 1955 has been registered, said the report.