Shillong MP Vincent Pala has urged the state government to constitute an inquiry into the seizure of rice from a warehouse in Assam meant for Meghalaya, even as he questioned the silence of the United Democratic Party (UDP) on the matter.
The UDP is a member of the governing coalition and had raised its voice on the woes of the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Ltd (MeECL) of late but has yet to do so on the so-called rice scam. The minister in charge of Social Welfare, Kyrmen Shylla, happens to be from the UDP.
Recently, Assam police claimed that one lakh sacks of rice belonging to Meghalaya under the Fortified Nutrition Programme scheme were found stocked in a private company’s warehouse near Guwahati. Assam police said that the rice was being repackaged into East Sunrise bags, a brand that belongs to Continental Milkose. The state government has been at pains to deny that there is any such scam.
“If in the case of MeECL the UDP can demand an inquiry into alleged irregularities, why is there no probe into this matter? The UDP should take up responsibility and clarify to the citizens and the Chief Minister should set up an inquiry,” Pala told reporters. “I want the UDP to enquire and come clean on the issue because the portfolio (Social Welfare) is being handled by the UDP.”
The MP also said that only an inquiry will prove if a scam exists or not.
“To say that there is no scam without even constituting an inquiry, this is not done,” Pala stated.
He also raked up the recent faux pas of the government, saying that the people will now only have vegetables to eat after the UDP took away their rice. This was in reference to the much-condemned statement by Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong recently that the public should eat rice and vegetables if they cannot afford meat because of the economic damage that Covid-19 has caused.
Expanding on Meghalaya’s need for rice as part of the Midday Meal Scheme, Pala said that a primary school student is entitled to 100 grammes and those in upper primary 150g. With 3.85 lakh and 1.50 lakh of these students in Meghalaya respectively, that would amount to 2,560 tonnes of rice in one quarter.
“The question now is, if the rice has been allotted to the state per quarter and the schools are currently closed, that means that the midday meals are not being served, so who is utilizing [the allotted rice]?” he queried.