Kolkata : Birbhum in West Bengal continued to remain on the boil Thursday, three days after a youth was killed in police firing, as protests against corruption in the public distribution system (PDS) rocked the district.
Irate villagers set ration shops on fire, ransacked the houses of ration dealers and attacked their families in Rampurhat and Ranjnagar in the district, around 250 km from here. The villagers also looted property and food grains.
Protests were also reported from Magdagram, Kurumbad and Gabpur in the district.
The police have arrested 72 people from the district on charges of rioting and arson.
“Arsoning, looting and ransacking of ration shops have been reported from Rampurhat and Rajnagar in the district. Some ration shops have been set ablaze in the area. We have rounded up some people and more arrests will follow,” Birbhum Superintendent of Police S.S. Panda told IANS.
He said around 200 police personnel were camping in the area. “The situation is under control,” he added.
Houses of six ration dealers were set ablaze and their families assaulted at Mayureswar and Kirnahar Wednesday.
On Monday, a protestor, Ayub Sheikh, was killed in police firing outside a block office in Labhpur area of the district when political leaders were discussing the issue inside. A police jeep and several motorcycles were burnt by a mob of over 2,000 protesting against corruption in food grain distribution.
Meanwhile, a five-member Trinamool Congress team went to Ketugram in Burdwan district, 128 km from Kolkata, where a villager, Dhanu Das, 35, was killed in police firing Wednesday.
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee will visit Bankura Friday, where protests against unavailability of food grains were first reported Sep 16. Villagers there had beaten up two Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leaders who refused to listen to their complaints about non-availability of wheat and rice at Radhamohanpur in the district.
Protesting attacks on them, around 1,200 ration dealers in Bankura submitted their licenses to the district officials Tuesday. Hundreds of ration dealers in Burdwan and Birbhum also returned their licenses to the district administration.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has appealed to people for peace. He asked people not to take law in their own hands and said the government had requested the centre to increase rice, wheat and kerosene supplies.
Food Supplies Minister Paresh Adhikary said a show-cause notice has been issued to Bijendra Nath Malakar, the Birbhum district controller of food, and action would be taken against Madan Mohan Mandal, the Bankura district controller of food, who recently retired.
Forty-four ration dealers in Bankura have been suspended since the first incident in the district on Sep 16 and first information reports (FIRs) have been lodged against four. In Birbhum, 11 ration dealers have been suspended and an FIR has been lodged against one.