Int’l agencies flocked C’garh to study pds, but none probed how neta-babu-trader nexus was working
Raipur, 1 October
Chhattisgarh&’s acclaimed Public Distribution System (PDS) may indeed be tightly knit and designed to empower the people of this predominantly tribal state with the much needed right to food, but a few intentionally inducted grey areas are tellingly visible to understand the nexus of neta-babu-trader milking the scheme and causing a huge loss to the public exchequer.
With the BJP leaving no chance to hail Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh for introducing such an effective model of ‘ Right to food’, the much talked about PDS hogged to the limelight globally. International organisations made a beeline to commend Mr Raman and his government but nobody actually measured the design, modalities and consequences of the scheme.
Naysayers, on the basis of ground realities, believe the scheme to be a ‘please all’ ploy, a Raman trademark of politics. Tens of thousands of bogus ration-cards and total chaos in the implementation in multiple cards policy has led to a huge chunk of embezzlement so far with no mechanism being put in place to measure and fix the leakage. This pleases everyone having any stake; from party leaders to traders, rice millers, babu and the general public.
After numerous complains of subsidized food being siphoned off through almost 7 lakh fake ration cards, the food supplies and consumers department terminated and ordered registration for ration cards afresh for all 56 lakhs families under Antyodaya ( extreme poverty), BPL and APL categories in April 2013. The reports so far suggests that the government have registered 66 lakh ration cards for 56 lakh families residing in the state according to the census of 2011, apparently indicating a money making gimmick by the bureaucracy and the ruling party.
In a similar exercise, the state government had to cancel all the ration cards in July 2011 after it was confirmed that 3 lakh 59000 cards were bogus and the subsidized food of Rs 300 crore meant to them was siphoned off by the dealers and local BJP leaders, Leader of Opposition, Mr Ravindra Choubey recently told The Statesman. If we calculate the amount on the market rate of low cost rice between 2008 and 2011 the embezzlement should cross Rs 600 crore mark in three years alone.
However, despite its show of concern over rising number of fake Ration cards, the government did nothing to fix the menace.
Mr Gyanesh Sharma, a Congress corporator in Raipur, estimates around 1 lakh 18000 bogus cards in Raipur alone. While LoP Mr Choubey allege that almost 7 lakh fake cards were used to siphon off subsidized 35 kg of rice per family in a month.
The Statesman tried to speak to Mr Aman Singh, Secretary to the Chief Minister, but could not be reached for comment.
Congress spokesperson Mr Mahendra Singh Chhabra says the BJP was the largest beneficiary of the so called fool-proof PDS in Chhattisgarh, with all the Fair Price Shops (FPS) being allotted to the Self Help Groups related to the BJP leaders.
“ They get 35 kg rice for a family of not more than 7 members at Rs 2 for BPL category and Rs1 for ‘Antyodaya’ category every month besides gram nuts at Rs 10 and free iodized salt. The Rice these days can be sold to Rs 15 per kg which later is resold to FCI or in Andra Pradesh and Orissa at Rs22 per kg," an expert said said.
Rice millers of Chhattisgarh are key to this nexus and plundering.
With no agency to check the quality of rice being distributed making it another area of concern with a huge chunk of it coming from the government owned Naagarki Aapurti Nigam which gets it from Agriculture Produce Mandi Committee after milling by the same rice millers. So many stake holders in the process make it more complex rather than a simple freebee.