KOLKATA/KHARAGPUR: For the first time since ration riots erupted in the state, an armed group of Maoists surrounded the house of a ration dealer in Belpahari on Sunday night and distributed stock from his godown to villagers. An estimated Rs 40,000 worth of rice, wheat and sugar was looted from the godown.
The incident occurred in the remote Chirugora village on the Bengal-Jharkhand border. Soon after dark, the Maoists struck — shouting slogans against dealer Mrinal Singh. After distributing the stock, they ordered Singh to keep his outlet open seven days a week and also cater to villagers who do not possess ration cards. The village, surrounded by hills, has a large BPL population. While villagers supported the strike, the ration dealer was too scared to lodge a complaint.
"We know of the incident but can do little till a formal complaint is lodged," said Sunil Chowdhury, subdivisional police officer, Jhargram. Though Maoists have put up posters and distributed leaflets against corrupt ration dealers, this is the first time they have looted a godown.
Meanwhile, the ration dealers who surrendered their dealerships, withdrew their agitation following the chief minister's assurance that steps would be taken to ensure safety to their lives and property. The decision was taken after deputation of dealers met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and food minister Paresh Adhikary on Tuesday. The meeting was convened as the government apprehended a crisis before Diwali.
General secretary of the All Bengal Ration Shop Owners' Association, Biswambhar Basu, said, "Out of 20,372 ration dealers, over 10,000 had already surrendered their dealership to the authorities. But they will soon withdraw it."
The food minister later said a high-level committee, headed by DG, food , R M Zamir, has been formed to look into the ration dealers' demand for enhanced commission. The committee will also review the transport rebate that ration dealers can be given for lifting foodgrains from different food department stores. The committee will submit its report in two weeks.
The minister said the government would provide security to dealers but it does not mean that the government will be protect the corrupt dealers as well.