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Clamping Down on Defaulters: IPS Officer DS Chauhan’s Reformative Actions

Loopholes in rice procurement allowed millers to cheat the system for over a decade. Enter IPS officer DS Chauhan. Can his reforms clean up the mess? Read to find out.
Indian Masterminds Stories

In the labyrinth of bureaucratic governance, where rules often fall prey to exploitation, a singular name stands out for its relentless pursuit of accountability and transparency—Senior IPS Officer DS Chauhan.

For over a decade, a web of loopholes in Telangana’s rice procurement system allowed over 1,500 millers to exploit the system. These millers defaulted on delivering custom-milled rice (CMR) to the government, causing financial losses and impacting the state’s public distribution system. Appointed as the Commissioner of Civil Supplies and Principal Secretary to the Government, Civil Affairs and Consumer Services (CAF and CS), Mr. Chauhan has spearheaded a transformative drive against these defaulting rice millers.

Indian Masterminds exclusively spoke with the officer to know how his reforms have turned the tide against long-standing malpractices.

UNEARTHING THE ROT

In December 2023, senior IPS officer DS Chauhan took charge as the Commissioner of Civil Supplies and Principal Secretary of the department.  He quickly discovered a shocking truth – a staggering Rs. 3,905 crore worth of CMR remained undelivered by millers since 2019-20.  This massive shortfall threatened the state’s ability to provide subsidized rice to its citizens.  Worse yet, previous attempts at recovery focused only on easily transferable movable properties like vehicles, offering little deterrence.

LOOPHOLES AND EXPLOITATION

Millers took advantage of the guidelines’ loopholes, primarily through inadequate paddy allotment checks and insufficient enforcement of penalties. Movable properties like cars and tractors were the only assets previously attachable by the department, allowing defaulters to easily evade recovery efforts.

Additionally, paddy allotment during the previous government regime often overlooked the mill capacity and track record, enabling repeat defaulters to continue their malpractice.

REINING IN THE DEFAULTERS

Mr. Chauhan wasn’t one to back down. He initiated a multi-pronged attack on the defaulters.  First, he plugged the loopholes. Previously, penalties for non-delivery were rarely enforced.  Mr. Chauhan ensured strict adherence to the existing rules, which mandated a 25% penalty and 100% return of the undelivered rice.

“One of the basic fundamental flaws was that earlier we could attach movable property of a rice miller if he defaults. Now, that doesn’t make any sense as movable property would not hold enough worth and secondly, as the name suggests, the miller could transfer his property overnight. Therefore, I issued a series of instructions and amended the existing government order,” Mr. Chauhan told Indian Masterminds.

He knew he needed a stronger weapon.  He lobbied for amendments to the Revenue Recovery (RR) Act, bringing immovable properties under its purview. This meant that mills facing significant defaults could now have their land and buildings attached by the government.  This bold move sent a clear message – non-compliance wouldn’t be tolerated. The department promptly directed collectors and sub-registrars to halt property transactions of errant millers, preventing them from selling or transferring their assets.

A THREE-TIERED APPROACH

Mr. Chauhan wasn’t about blanket punishment. He recognized there could be genuine reasons for occasional slip-ups. He categorized millers into three groups:

Clean Slate: Millers with a spotless record faced no penalties.

Single-Time Casual Defaulter: For those with a single, justifiable default (illness, fire damage, etc.), Mr. Chauhan offered a chance at redemption. These millers were allowed to provide a 100% rice backup and furnish a bank guarantee for the remaining 25% within three months.

“If they do not pay, I have their Bank Guarantee and I could encash it easily thus fulfilling the penalty. On that condition, we gave them paddy this season,” he shared.

Black Sheep: Those with a history of repeated defaults were categorized as “black sheep.” These mills faced the full brunt of the law, with property attachments and potential criminal action.

“We identified 362 such millers and they were absolutely thrown out of business. We did not allow them any paddy and asked them to clear their slate first,” he told Indian Masterminds.

This categorization allowed for a fairer, more targeted approach to dealing with defaulters, ensuring that genuine cases were distinguished from habitual offenders.

STRICTER ENFORCEMENT AND RECOVERY

To further tighten the noose around defaulters, Mr. Chauhan implemented additional amendments that were widely appreciated:

No Dues Certificate: Millers were prohibited from selling or lending the department’s paddy without a no dues certificate.

Responsibility of YKDS: The responsibility for the paddy remained with the owner until cleared by the department.

Registered Sale Deeds: Only registered sale deeds were accepted, ensuring legal compliance and preventing fraudulent transfers.

These measures resulted in the attachment of approximately Rs 500 crore worth of movable property, prompting millers to deposit Rs 160 crore in cash and Rs 230 crore in rice.

“After the amendments, roughly 800 crores of old default have been recovered.”

IMPACT AND RECOVERY

Mr. Chauhan’s crackdown yielded significant results. From December 2023 to May 2024, the civil supplies department recovered about 27,984 MTs of CMR, worth approximately Rs 1,700 crore. The invocation of the RR Act against 116 millers marked a decisive action that sent a clear message to all defaulters.

TRANSPARENCY AND REFORM

Mr. Chauhan’s leadership also brought about reforms in paddy allotment and CMR procurement processes, introducing transparency that was previously lacking. By ensuring that paddy allotment did not favor repeat defaulters and aligning it with mill capacity and track record, he reinstated a sense of fairness and accountability in the system.

“Reforms have to be placed well. It’s a long jumbo goods train and we have to take a U-turn without derailing it in the process. If we move too fast, everything could go haywire. Therefore, my next step to ensure that the defaulting doesn’t start happening again is to move slowly and do our best to keep a check on defaulters,” he shared.

Senior IPS Officer DS Chauhan’s tenure as the Commissioner of Civil Supplies and Principal Secretary to the Government, CAF, and CS, has been marked by decisive actions and systemic reforms. By addressing long-standing loopholes and introducing stringent measures, he has not only recovered significant dues but also set a precedent for future governance.

His efforts have instilled a renewed sense of responsibility among millers, ensuring that the state’s resources are protected and utilized effectively. In a system often marred by inefficiencies and exploitation, Mr. Chauhan’s actions stand as a beacon of integrity and reform.


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