Vegetable gaddas rake in moolah by resorting to malpractices

Selling of vegetables more than the sanctioned 2 kg of vegetables to one person sounds an innocuous charge against horticulture department outlets. But this malpractice points to a set-up carried out by the outlets or gaddas, which have been fined for selling subsidised vegetables to commercial outlets like hotels, instead of following the 2-kg per person rule.

A gadda in the Miramar area has been caught, fined and charged for malpractices. This gadda is not the only one, but one among the few that have been caught indulging in malpractices.

These malpractices include selling in larger quantities than allowed and fudging prices. This is happening on a much larger scale than is officially admitted. And despite being aware of the problem, the state government is unable to curb this steady leakage of public money as vegetables are heavily subsidised to benefit citizens. There have been complaints and accusations that a lot of these vegetables go to commercial enterprises instead of the targeted group.

Outlets numbering around 423, including 90 horticulture carts, dot the state and get 20 per cent commission on vegetables.

What oils the wheels of these malpractices is the 20 per cent commission and the difference in the rates. Vegetables are mandated to be sold at these outlets at wholesale Belgaum rates.

But wholesale Belgaum rates and retail market rates differ by at least 15 to 20 per cent making this a very lucrative venture, both for the outlet as well as the bulk buyer.

The government subsidises 10 varieties of vegetables, ensuring that states denizens get their greens at wholesale Belgaum rates. The rates at the gaddas are set everyday by the billing staff on the 24 routes. Wherever money is concerned there could be slip between the cup and the lip. It must be noted here that almost 50 tonnes of vegetables come into the state for 22 days in a month and around `12 crore of public money is spent by the government to help its citizens alleviate their sufferings due to the high rate of food inflation.

However, supervision on the 24 routes – where are 420-odd outlets including 90 horticulture carts — is handled by two contract supervisors, making it highly impossible to keep a track on slow drainage from the `12 crore subsidy given by the government.

"We have two inspectors – one in North and the other in South," the chairman of Goa State Horticulture Development Corporation, Mr Kiran Kandolkar said denying government complicity, but admitted that leakage of public money vis-à-vis the malpractices is possible.

But "…on the gadda side maybe, government side, not possible," he stated.

The newly-appointed chairman said the vegetables are delivered to the gaddas based on the orders placed by gadda owners themselves.

He, disclosed that he had discussed this problem with the Chief Minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar and they would try and sort it out.

He sought the cooperation of the public to check this menace.

Corporation officials said that complaints do come in, but in most cases, people are not willing to even identify themselves and point fingers at three-four gaddas at a time. They said that it is difficult to believe because a person goes to one gadda and it is not possible for him to be at three places at one go.

The system works like this: Five per cent goes to the supplier – there are 12 of them; 20 per cent to the gaddas; transport is paid for by the government, and at present `12 crore has been sanctioned by the government.

The offences are dealt with in stages. When the offence is committed for the first time the outlet is warned, second time a fine of `2000 is slapped on the outlet and third time fine of `5000 is imposed. Finally, the licence of the gadda is withdrawn.

However, till date, no outlet has had its licence withdrawn, a telling statement in itself.

The service has been in operation since 2008. [NT]