Oct. 11: Nearly 3,000 villagers in Burdwan today tried to set Ranjit Sen's house on fire after the ration dealer gave them the slip without paying "compensation".
The villagers, from Purbasthali's Siddhipara and neighbouring Dangapara and Paruldanga, had confronted Ranjit yesterday, accusing him of diverting stocks over the past one year. They demanded that he pay Rs 1,000 to all 3,000 cardholders in the three villages.
The villagers went to his home this morning to collect the money, but Ranjit was reluctant to pay.
Around 1pm, Ranjit went out of the house, telling the villagers he would be back in a few minutes. But when the ration dealer did not return after half an hour, the villagers realised he had fled.
The villagers then ransacked Ranjit's house and tried to set it ablaze. "Police arrived in the nick of time and rescued me and other family members," said Bijoykrishna, Ranjit's father.
In Calcutta, food minister Paresh Adhikari said he would meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee soon to work out steps against the panchayat members allegedly involved in the ration row.
"Panchayat members from political parties monitor the public distribution system in the districts. I believe they are primarily responsible for the ration rage in Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan and Murshidabad," Adhikari said.
The panchayats in these four districts are controlled by the CPM.
However, the minister refused to comment on whether CPM activists were behind the fortnight-long violence.
Industries minister Nirupam Sen said dishonest ration dealers were responsible for the agitation.
"Corruption has spread to every sector of the economy. But people hoarding food should not be excused. It is because of dishonest dealers that districts are seething. We want rice and wheat to be given through ration shops," Sen said.