Govt imposes temporary ban on Assam supplier

SEIZURE OF RICE BAGS

SHILLONG, June 24: The state government has stopped Continental Milkose Pvt Ltd from supplying fortified micronutrients and energy-dense fortified food under the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) of the Social Welfare Department till it receives a report from the Assam police.
An inquiry will be initiated if the government is not satisfied with the report, Social Welfare Minister Kyrmen Shylla said on Thursday.
“We are still waiting for the report from Assam police and we are open to any kind of inquiry if the report is unsatisfactory,” he said.
Shylla said the Investigating Officer (IO) of Assam is already on the job and the report is awaited. He also said an approved supplier has already been selected in place of Continental Milkose Pvt Ltd to maintain the supply of the fortified micronutrients and energy-dense fortified food. “He (Milkose) cannot supply until and unless we are satisfied with the report,” he said.
Continental Milkose Pvt Ltd, an approved manufacturing supplier of micronutrients and energy-dense fortified food under the SNP, came under the scanner after a huge quantity of FCI, Shillong rice meant for the programme was seized in Assam. The rice was allegedly repacked for Assam Rifles under a different brand.
“News reports say it is a rice scam in the Social Welfare Department. It is not a scam as nothing is amiss so far,” Shylla said.
Stating that it can be called a scam if the rice allotted to the Social Welfare Department disappears in between or is sold to others, he said neither the department nor the supplier is denying that the rice belongs to them.
“Let’s accept that 1 lakh bags were there in the warehouse, but those bags do not belong to us. Only 33,000 bags belong to us and we have not denied that they were meant for fortification,” he said.
The 33,000 bags are still in the warehouse and not touched or repacked for any other purpose, he added.
“But we have still sought a report,” Shylla said.
He said that according to a report from the manufacturer, the rice was allotted to them but they were given only 12 days to take all of it from the FCI or risk cancellation of the allotment. The rice was thus lifted and kept in the warehouse as transportation had been affected due to COVID-19.
The Minister also said that the firm has been supplying the fortified food in advance and the state received all its supplies. The supplier informed the government that the 33,000 bags in the warehouse were lifted in advance for the next supply, he added. “Our concern is that they give us the same quantity of rice after conversion and fortification,” he said.
On reports that the food is eventually given to pigs as children find it unpalatable, Shylla said: “We know that this food is meant for the children to build their health. Not everyone likes medicines and it is the same with fortified foods – some children like and some don’t. But that does not mean it will not boost their health.”
He said the food is tested every quarter before distribution. “The manufacturer gives us reports of their testing, but we still conduct our own for ensuring quality and nutrition,” he added.

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