Kozhikode, Aug. 20 : Thanks to a handicap in the procedural system that enable the authorities cross verify the credentials declared by the beneficiary, many a food subsidy in force under the various pro-poor programmes of the Central Government, are being eaten up by the rich and the affordable class in Kerala through the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
It is the Kerala Civil Supplies department that deals with the implementation of schemes connected with distribution of rice, wheat, sugar and kerosene. The old Public Distribution System (PDS) has recently been reworked and renamed as Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). The stock of PDS items that are allotted by the Central Government is distributed through Authorised Ration Depots (ARD), on the basis of family ration cards, vis-a-vis its colour.
Below Poverty Line (BPL) is an economic benchmark by the government of India to indicate economic disadvantage and to identify individuals and households in need of government assistance and aid. It is determined using various parameters which vary from state-to-state and within states. Broadly, the families are categorised as Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL). The BPL card holders will get 35 kg. of rice @ Rs.6.20 per month and sugar.
Under the Central Government sponsored Annapurna scheme, the senior citizens above the age of 65 are eligible to draw 10 kg. of rice per month, free of cost. Under the Anthyodhaya Anna Yojana, again a Union Government sponsored scheme, the poorest of the poor families are entitled for 35 kg. of rice per month at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 3 per kg. The transportation and other incidental expenses of the implementation of the scheme are met by the State Government. Colour Codes:
There are four colours of ration cards now in Kerala. These cards include Yellow Card, Pink Card, Blue Card, and White Card. The Yellow card comes with the maximum benefits and the White ones are the least beneficial since they are a non-priority card. The documents required to get a ration card were, aadhaar card, certificate from the ward councillor, proof of date of birth and passport size photographs. In fact, there is no need of getting an income certificate since you will be getting a certificate from the ward councillor.
This serves as a guarantee that you are eligible to apply for a ration card under the desired category. According to an official of the Rationing Office here, the maximum income of a family should not be more than Rs.25000 to become eligible to get a Yellow or Pink Card, falling within the ambit of BPL category. The Blue card holders are those whose income is more than Rs.25000 but are eligible for subsidies, under special grouping criteria. The White colour card are for those who are eligible for ration but not for any subsidy.
There are as many loopholes as possible for the clever ones or influential ones to file an affidavit as to sworn their income as below the BPL bar of Rs.25000 and benefit all the subsidies and special privileges under the Annapoorna and Andhyodhaya schemes, making it literally free-of-cost, meant for the poorest of the poor in the country. There has not been any effective checking in this connection, except few thousands which are being converted into APL card besides recovering the subsidy part they enjoyed under pretext of BPL category.
“There was not much introspection being exercised in this direction as to book the offenders and punish them with penalty”, the official said. However, there is much than meets the eye. The main issue behind this sort of fooling the authorities and utilising the subsidies and privileges of the underprivileged by the rich and affluent is due to the lack of a software that would cross verify the financial credentials of an individual who applies for a ration card under the BPL category, by self-declaration. “There are enough and more restrictions for one to get categorised under the BPL.
Anyone who is having a house of more than 1000 sq. ft. area, owning a four-wheeler and one acre of land are not eligible to apply for a ration card under BPL category”, the official explained. However, no Government official or one working in a PSU are eligible for BPL classification. But, the department is handicapped with a lesser-class of a software that has no facility to cross-verify the financial strength of the applicant. But the fact remains that thousands, if not lakhs of rich people, having more than the income criteria of Rs.25000 a month and having a car are holding either a pink or yellow card and enjoying the subsidies meant for the poorest of the poor people. But, who will bell the cat is the question here.
With a handicapped software and with limited number officers to suspect or inspect, the task is not easy either. “Once a card is issued, the beneficiary is not in anyway in contact with the Supply office but only approach the ARDs, who would seldom report such irregularity”, admits a ration dealer. “In fact, the income limitation of Rs.25000 should not have been categorised under the BPL”, says a white ration card holder who is a retired class one officer. The amount is not too bad and should only be classified under the Blue category with subsidy.
Why should a family with an annual income of three lakh be considered as economically poor and economically in a disadvantageous position as to enjoy the benefits of Andhydhaya and schemes alike”, he added. The best bet would be to declare judicial proceedings with penalty for those violating norms and giving false declaration coupled with surprise and random checking of the seemingly-affluent ration card holders approaching the ARDs with Yellow and Pink cards. UNI