Bengal ration scandal’s high-profile face flaunts CPM contacts, leads statewide protests

Subrata Nagchoudhury
Posted online: Tuesday,
Kolkata, October 22

Ration shop dealers in West Bengal, under attack across the state for allegedly siphoning off food from the public distribution system, launched a statewide agitation today against a crackdown by the state government. Yet, within the CPM, there is no dearth of red faces.

For, not only a large number of dealers in the firing line in Bankura, Birbhum and Burdwan — whose licences have been suspended — are CPM cardholders, the man leading the agitation is also the most prominent face of the scandal: his ration shop was sealed in July and he can’t stop flaunting his CPM credentials.

He is the all-India general secretary of the Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation, Biswambhar Bose, and he claims high-level party patrons: CPM MPs Sitaram Yechury and Tarit Topadar.

He even cites Brinda Karat as one of his key mentors. While Yechury was not available for comment, Karat, when contacted, said: “I haven’t had any consultations with him (Biswambhar) for several months now.” She said that members of her party and the CPI did attend the federation’s rallies in Delhi. “They gave me several memoranda of the problems they have been facing,” said Karat.

Karat has blamed the Centre for the ration riots claiming the root cause is the drop in allocation of wheat and rice to APL (Above Poverty Line) cardholders in the state.

Consider the alleged irregularities unearthed in relation to Biswambhar Bose’s ration dealership by the state Directorate of Rationing:
Biswambhar Bose owns dealerships for three ration shop outlets in the city’s Salt Lake area. Total ration card strength: over 30,000 when the average for a dealer is between 3000 and 7000. “For a single dealer to have 30,000 ration cards is a miracle, it points to political clout,” says a senior official of the Food and Supplies department.
Trouble began when Bose applied for a dealership for his son for a ration shop in the Mahishbathan area in the outskirts of Salt Lake which had fallen vacant when a dealer fled after intimidation by local criminals.
During scrutiny of this application, officials found that Bose’s son, Biswajit Bose, had mentioned AE 809 Salt Lake as his residential address on his ration card.
That address belongs to Deputy Director of Procurement and Supplies Asim Bose.
Asim Bose denies that Biswajit Bose was a ever a resident there. And claims he “doesn’t know him at all,”
Officials are now contemplating filing criminal cases against the father-son duo — the dealer who issued Biswajit Bose his ration card has been suspended.
Biswambhar Bose refused to furnish stock registers and daily sale records to officials. When pressed, he reportedly produced a “police case diary” of lost documents that was subsequently found to be allegedly fudged.
For, the police case was recorded on February 2, 2007, while officers discovered new registers dated January 29, 2007. How could the new registers be opened before the old ones got lost? Bose had no answer.
An official check found several irregularities in registers and evidence of supplies being siphoned off: several ration cardholders, against whom supplies had been booked, denied having lifted any stock.

When contacted by The Indian Express, Biswambhar Bose said: “In Salt Lake, so many people stay as paying guests. What’s the harm if my son’s address is the residence of an officer? Officially, the officer cannot do so, that’s why he is denying it.”

When told about the findings of the official probe, he said: “All are flimsy charges and I will explain to you later. Now I am busy in a meeting with Biman Bose, the CPM state secretary, regarding our agitation.”

Asked about his political links, Biswambhar Bose said: “Sitaram Yechury is our chief advisor for the all-India federation while CPM MP Tarit Baran Topadar from Barrackpore is the chief advisor for the state unit. Biman Bose is not directly associated with the organization.”

Food and Supplies Minister Paresh Chandra Adhikari declined to give details but admitted that an inquiry is on against Biswambhar Bose and other ration dealers. :: Bengal ration scandal’s high-profile face flaunts CPM contacts, leads statewide protests