Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, May 28:
It seems the Odisha government and the district collectors are into a hide and seek game over the deletion of bogus ration cards. While a large number of bogus ration cards are in circulation, ‘repeated reminders’ over the years by the state government to the district collectors to delete the ghost cards, have yielded no result, leading to suspicion that perhaps no one is serious about the exercise.
Forget deletion of bogus cards, the collectors did not even bother to take any disciplinary action against the errant officers, who had issued the cards, or initiate any criminal proceedings against the bogus card-holders.
The state government, which has been writing letters after letters to the district collectors since 2011, has once again sent a letter addressed to 21 district collectors to provide information regarding deletion of bogus cards and action taken against the persons for issuing the cards.
“Information for therein has not yet been received from your districts in spite of issue of several reminders. The government of India, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution is pressing hard for information for updating the state figures,” said a letter of state Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare department to all the district collectors barring Keonjhar, Nuapada, Cuttack, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Baleswar and Rayagada.
The Supreme Court, while dealing with a case filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties, had came down heavily on the state government after the court-appointed Justice Wadhwa Commission submitted a report saying over 2.5 lakh bogus ration cards are in circulation in Odisha.
The government had launched a special drive in 2010 for the detection of bogus cards and card-holders were asked to authenticate their cards by producing identity proof. The verification was completed by the end of December 2010.
Official sources claimed 2.16 lakh bogus cards, including 98,000 APL cards, were detected after the special drive.
However, while replying to a letter of the Accountant General that had expressed surprise over the inaction of the state government in initiating action against the officials who had distributed about 2.5 lakh bogus cards to beneficiaries, under secretary of state Food Supply and Consumer Welfare department Rabindra Kumar Mishra had said the government is unable to take departmental action since it has no records of the officials who were entrusted with the task of distribution of ration cards in the year 1992.
The department had issued the ration cards to the beneficiaries in 1992-93. Later, after the publication of BPL survey list in 1997, it had validated these cards as BPL cards.
Sources said a large number of ghost cards were issued during the selection of beneficiaries under Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Annapurna Anna Yojana launched in 2002. As per Centre’s guideline, the beneficiaries (poorest among the poor) under the two schemes were selected from among the existing BPL families. However, a large number of Antyodaya and Annapurna beneficiaries have not surrendered the old BPL cards.
An official in the state Food Supply and Consumer Welfare department told OST under the condition of anonymity that the state government avoided taking firm action against the offenders in the bogus ration card scam all these years because it did not want to invite trouble before the elections were over.
” A government that believes in doing out sops to win votes could not have taken the risk before the urban and general elections were over. They would not have acted even now but for the pressures from the Centre, ” he said.