Burdwan/Suri, Oct. 5: Ration shops are not being burnt down in Burdwan, nor are their owners being thrashed. They are being tried in village courts and told to pay for cheating villagers, literally.
In Galsi, about 130km from Calcutta, dealers "confessed" to selling foodgrain in the black market and agreed to pay lakhs in compensation.
Around 7.30am, a motley group of villagers that included farmers, shop owners and private tutors gathered in ones and twos in front of Rajib Sain's shop at Irkuna village.
When Rajib sought their cards, the villagers said they had not come to collect ration.
"Aajkey aamra hisheb chai (we want to see your books)," said Anjan Ash.
Rajib was asked to walk to a field with all his papers. A kangaroo court sat under a tamarind tree there.
"Show us the accounts for the past two weeks," said Anjan, 37, who owns a shop.
Rajib fumbled with the records and mumbled some figures but ultimately admitted that things were not in order.
The villagers shouted "maar maar (beat him)" but Anjan, Kalo Sheikh and Taher Mondal threw a ring around Rajib and pacified them.
"There is no need to look into your documents. Aamra aamaader nijeder hisheb toiri korechhi (we've done our own calculation). You owe us Rs 1.5 lakh. Pay us the amount and walk free. We'll use the money for the development of the village," said Taher.
Rajib pleaded that he did not have so much. "Please take Rs 1 lakh and let me go."
A quick discussion and the villagers agreed.
"I felt relieved. There was a lot of discrepancy in my stocks," said Rajib.
Similar trials were held at Baradighi, Sanko, Daronari and Loapur. At Baradighi, Sheikh Sikandar gave an undertaking for Rs 1.5 lakh.
Galsi Forward Bloc MLA Mehboob Mondal confirmed such delivery of "justice".
"There was violence in Ketugram (on Wednesday) and one person was killed in police firing. We don't want a repeat," he said.
The administration admitted hearing about the kangaroo courts. "We can step in only if there is a law-and-order problem," said Neera Mitra Sikdar, the BDO of Galsi block II.
District magistrate Manish Jain said a task force has been set up in each block to monitor the ration system.
The CPM state committee discussed the public fury against "dishonest" ration dealers and admitted "corruption and malpractice" in the system.
At Gogram in Birbhum's Nalhati, a mob set Rabi Dutta's house on fire. Police said Dutta had fled with his family. Two policemen were injured in trying to disperse the mob.