Government in a fix over illegal ration cards

The Food and Civil Supplies department may have ‘tackled’ the bogus ration card problem.

But, it is now faced with the burgeoning problem of innumerable ‘ineligible’ cards, held by both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries, leaving the officials flummoxed who are unsure of the approach to be adopted to resolve the issue.

Ineligible card holders are those beneficiaries whose data has been ‘missing’ — solely because no database was created during the distribution of cards to them.

While 26,929 such card holders have been identified in the State, the problem is largely concentric to Bangalore Urban district, which has 13,512 ineligible card holders.

With elections round the corner, and pressure being built on the government by MLAs belonging to various constituencies including Dasarahalli, Bommanahalli and Yelahanka, the department has now decided to distribute ration to these card holders, even as confusion prevails over their authenticity.

On Friday, Food and Civil Supplies Minister D N Jeevaraj gave instructions to the department to resume distribution of food grains to these card holders, till their eligibility is established.

“We are in this mess only because of COMAT Technologies, which flouted all the agreement norms. As a result, the department is faced with several practical problems, one of them being that of missing data.

The company has randomly distributed cards to applicants, without even creating their database. When we stopped issuing ration following the bogus card drive, the problem came to light. But the card holders cannot be held responsible for this.

Hence I have directed the officials to continue with distribution of food grains until the problem is set right,” said Jeevaraj.

The Food and Civil Supplies department took over the process of weeding out bogus ration cards and distribution of new cards from April 2010.

Tip of the iceberg

Food and Civil Supplies Department  Secretary B A Harish Gowda said this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“My hunch is that there are five lakh to 10 lakh more such ineligible card holders who we are yet to identify. The problem in Bangalore Urban district has catapulted only because the department failed to plug the loophole when it was first noticed three months ago,” he said.

Gowda said the same problem has been noticed in other districts too and that they were addressed as and when such card holders cropped up.

“But in Bangalore Urban, the deputy director did not take cognizance of it. As a result we have been forced to distribute ration to all these card holders. The data entry process has now begun,” he added.

The department is also faced with another major practical problem – that of ‘multiplicity’. COMAT is said to have issued same card numbers to multiple card holders, and there are 1,394 such beneficiaries in Bangalore Urban.

 Gowda said both these problems would be set right shortly. Officials have been directed to verify the authenticity of such cards by verifying the same with ration cards held by other members of the same family.     

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