The Vigilance and Enforcement (V&E) department conducted a raid at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) office at Sagar Nagar in Vizag on Monday. This happened after they were tipped that the rice grains supplied by the Civil Supplies Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh, was being illegally transported to Kakinada for export through a private firm. ISKCON is one of the agencies empaneled for the mid day meal (MDM) scheme for providing at government schools in the state.
Reportedly, when interrogated by V&E officials, Samba Das, President of ISKCON Vizag, denied the allegations saying that they received the rice as donations from devotees. He claimed that as some of it is not of good quality, they sell it in return for better quality grains. Additionally, he stated to have all the receipts for the mid day meal scheme and that the manager, who was earlier removed from the society for misbehaving with women, had given false news to the officials. However, later on, the ISKCON accountant clarified that donations are only accepted in the form of cash and not as commodities. Following this discovery, Mr. Vinay Chand (IAS). the Visakhapatnam District Collector has demanded the accounts statements from ISKCON and instructed them to present their version of the case.
During the raid, V&E officials had noticed rice packed in plastic instead of the gunny bags they were supplied in. The bags also had the letters ‘Sealony and Export Par Sri Sitaramanajaneya, Kakinada’ written on them which proved they were being transported for export. In addition to 110 bags, loaded in the lorry, the officials also noticed an additional 286 bags that were shifted to plastic bags and readied for transport. This brings the total to 396 bags cumulatively weighing approximately 19.8 Metric Tonnes of rice.
Cases have been booked under the Essential Commodities Act against Shyam Sundar Priya Das, the ISKCON priest, MSN Murthy, ISKCON manager, the lorry driver V. Sanyasi Rao and his accomplice Gavara Eswar Rao.
Investigations showed that since the past few months there have been no records being maintained on the MDM scheme. thereby allowing Shyam Sundar to carry out these illegal activities freely.
In recent progress on the case, the rice bags found in Kakinada had the words ‘ ‘Saelony’, ‘Long Grain Riz Blanc Indien’ printed on them. This is a French used in some African countries, thus implying that the rice was being smuggled to Africa by a private export firm in Kakinada.
Furthermore, the president of ISKCON Visakhapatnam had mentioned receiving the rice as donations from devotees. The accountant pointed out that they only accept cash as donations and not rice grains.
In addition to the 396 bags of rice found by the officials, they also found another 396 empty bags. With no records on the MDM present at ISKCON, there are no details that the rice was received as donations. However, the police await the results of further investigations.
Following the raids, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions(CITU) demands that the CBI probe further into this matter and that the State government breaks all its ties with ISKCON.