(This story originally appeared in on Oct 04, 2020)It is well-known that rice and other essentials from the Public Distribution System (PDS) often get smuggled out into the open market in India and sold for profit. But in Andhra Pradesh, a gang of international smugglers has managed to illegally export PDS rice worth crores to Africa, Malaysia, Bangladesh and other countries.
The police busted one such gang recently. Investigators first detected that the rice, meant exclusively for those holding white ration cards, had been illegally exported from Prakasam district. Officials now say this may just be the tip of the iceberg as they have found that rice worth Rs 38 crore was smuggled to Africa in the last two years. This does not include the produce caught at ports before being illegally exported. If this is taken into account, the racket runs into at least Rs 150 crore.
Police officials told TOI smuggling of PDS rice has become a lucrative business for the smugglers as the profit margin is quite high.
“We have seized over one lakh kg of PDS rice. Further audit suggests that in the last two years, PDS gangs smuggled around 4.5 lakh kg (450 metric tonnes) of PDS rice to different countries worth Rs 38 crore,” said Siddharth Kaushal, superintendent of police, Prakasam district.
So far, 32 persons were arrested for smuggling. They are believed to be part of a much larger nexus of rice mill owners, PDS brokers, transporters, and exporters.
The smugglers first procure the rice from rice millers. The produce is then polished, packed and labelled and taken to Panvel, Chennai, Kakinada and Krishnapatnam ports for export. Kaushal said that export companies across Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are involved in the smuggling racket.