Food Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday termed the CBI investigation into alleged corruption in Food Corporation of India (FCI) a "wake-up call" for the state-owned firm and asserted that those involved in corrupt practices will not be spared.
FCI - the government's nodal agency for procurement and distribution of foodgrains - would follow the principle of zero tolerance for corruption, the minister said.
Goyal stated this while delivering the inaugural address at the 59th Foundation Day of FCI here, an official statement said.
It’s a wake-up call for the organisation and those found involved in corrupt practices will not be spared, Goyal was quoted as saying while referring to the ongoing investigation into the alleged cases of corruption in FCI.
He said FCI will follow the principle of zero tolerance for corruption and there is a need to ensure that there is not a single corrupt employee in FCI.
Goyal directed the officials to institutionalise a mechanism wherein whistleblowers should be rewarded.
He asked all officers and staff of FCI to report any incident of corruption. Goyal said there is a need to transform, reform and reinvent FCI and its entire ecosystem, including the ration shop dealers. He described the recent development of corruption in FCI as "unfortunate".
On January 11, the CBI launched 'Operation Kanak' on alleged corruption in FCI, conducting searches at 50 locations in Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi after arresting a DGM-rank officer from Chandigarh.
The CBI booked a total of 74 accused in the FIR after a six-month long undercover operation to identify suspects in the syndicate of officials, rice mill owners and middlemen, among others who were allegedly indulging in corrupt practices.
Goyal also said the transformation of FCI should be done on a fast track mode so that the organisation can continue to help the people, the poor and farmers of the country.
The minister also directed the Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution to monitor the transformation of FCI and Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) every week and to update him on the status on a fortnightly basis.
He said strict action has to be taken against the officers who do not cooperate with or delay the transformation process.
As per the statement, Goyal praised the way FCI carried out the world’s largest food supply chain system, especially during the pandemic to ensure seamless supply of foodgrains under 'Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana' (PMGKAY). He said despite the pandemic, no one slept hungry in the country.
Goyal said India has set a global example in the areas of food security, strengthening economic scenario, controlling inflation and others.
He mentioned that the rice procurement figures for the year are good and hoped for a robust wheat procurement in the coming season as well.
Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra also directed FCI CMD Ashok KK Meena to ensure a system of eliminating corruption and providing an efficient and transparent service to the people.
According to the CBI FIR, an organised syndicate of FCI officers charged bribes ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 4,000 per truck unloaded at godowns from private millers to cover up lower quality grains supplied by them and to extend other favours.
The bribes were distributed among officers at every level reaching up to the headquarters in a well-defined percentage of cuts at each level, it alleged.
The FIR, seen by PTI, shows details of such bribe collection in many FCI depots across Punjab.