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Updated January 5th, 2024 at 14:49 IST

What Is the Ration Scam in Which ED Officers Were Attacked in Bengal

WB Police had filed many FIRs, alleging that various private individuals were involved in storing, selling subsidised rate wheat flour without valid license

Srinwanti Das
ED attacked
About 1000-2000 in number, the mob demonstrated before assaulting the officers on duty, forcing them to leave the area | Image:Republic
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Kolkata: On Friday, Enforcement Directorate officers were assaulted and their vehicles were allegedly damaged by a TMC mob linked to party leader Sheikh Sajahan when they tried to raid his residence in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district in connection with their probe into the ration distribution scam. The ED officers are conducting raids at 17 locations in the state during the day.

What is the Ration Distribution Scam

West Bengal Police had registered multiple FIRs, alleging that various private individuals were involved in storing and selling subsidised rate wheat flour without a valid license. Thereafter, ED had registered an ECIR based on the FIRs registered by West Bengal Police. Kolkata Police in their FIR said that rice millers had opened bank accounts in the name of fake farmers and thus pocketed MSP intended for the benefit of genuine farmers. It is suspected that the quantum of the scam could be anywhere between Rs 500 to 1,000 crore.

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What has ED found so far: 5 pointers

  • On October 27, 2023, ED arrested the minister in-charge of Forest Affairs and Non-Conventional and Renewable Energy Jyotipriya Mallick. He was accused of fake paddy procurement and siphoning off PDS ration to the open market. Sajahan is considered to be a close aide of state minister Jyotipriyo Mallick who was arrested in connection with the multi-crore ration distribution scam.
  • ED probe has revealed that approximately 30 per cent of PDS ration intended for priority households, Antyodaya Anna Yojana beneficiaries, was diverted to the open market and the proceeds of crime generated from the same were shared between the millers and the PDS distributors. 
  • While the government agencies were required to procure paddy at MSP from farmers, the millers opened fake bank accounts in the name of farmers and pocketed the MSP which was intended for paddy farmers. 
  • In the recent chargesheet filed by the agency, ED claims that one of the prime suspects admitted that approx Rs 200 per quintal was earned by various rice millers across the state over the years. 
  • During the searches, ED has seized proceeds of crime amounting to Rs 1.42 crore in cash and has frozen Rs 16.87 crore in bank accounts of shell entities.

What happened on January 5

A large number of TMC loyalists first gheraoed the ED officials and the central forces personnel who accompanied them when they reached Sheikh's residence in Sandeshkhali area in the morning when they went to raid Sajahan’s residence. About 1000-2000 in number, the mob demonstrated before assaulting the officers on duty, forcing them to leave the area, an ED officer said.

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The ED officers left their damaged vehicles and took autorickshaws and two-wheelers to reach a safe place out of Sandeskhali, he added.

At least three of the ED officers suffered serious injuries and had to be taken to a hospital, he said. The officers received several stitches.

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"This kind of attack is unprecedented. Our officers had to flee the area to save themselves from the attack. Vehicles of us and those of the central forces were damaged. Personnel of the central forces were also assaulted," the ED officer told PTI.

Senior police officers, including the SP of North 24 Parganas district, did not communicate when the ED officers tried to contact them when they were assaulted, he alleged.

Sajahan’s supporters attacked the officials and the central forces personnel when they tried to break the lock of the gate of his residence which was not opened by the TMC leader despite several calls made by them, he said.

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The decision to raid Sheikh's residence was taken after a go-ahead from the ED's Delhi office, he said.

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Media persons from news channels, who went to Sandeskhali to cover the ED raids, were also assaulted and their vehicles were also ransacked.

"A few of the journalists were also taken to a hospital," a senior police officer of Basirhat police district said.

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The IPS officer said that they were yet to get any official complaint from the central probe agency, but certainly actions as per the law would be taken.

"We have not arrested anyone in this connection. The ED officers are yet to file any complaint with us. Once the official complaint is received, we will take necessary action as per the law," the IPS officer told PTI when contacted.

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BJP trains guns on TMC

Reacting to the attack, West Bengal BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar said, “There are complaints and corruption charges against all of them. It is natural that ED will take action. It is quite obvious. The attack on ED in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali shows what the Rohingya are doing to the law and order in the state…” Majumdar has written to Union Home Minister, demanding for a probe in the matter by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

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Party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said, “The Sandeshkhali incident is very unfortunate. However, there is serious provocation from the part of central agencies and central forces. The agencies are provoking people by reaching different areas every day in the name of raid under the BJP’s instruction. Every day, episode by episode an attempt is being made to malign the image of the Trinamool Congress. It has become a trend now.”

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Senior BJP leader Rahul Sinha alleged that Sajahan is a smuggler who is facing murder charges, but the police did not take any action against him.

"The attack on the ED was pre-planned," he claimed.

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Published January 5th, 2024 at 14:22 IST

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