The BPL ration cards which were made in large numbers in Chhattisgarh before the 2013 assembly elections, as reported by The Indian Express on Friday, was an exact repetition of the developments ahead of the 2008 polls. If it was the Food Security Act in the 2013 elections, in 2008 the poll plank of the Chhattisgarh BJP was the Mukhyamantri Khadhyanna Sahayata Yojna (MKSY), which gave the famous epithet of “Chaur wala baba” (old man with the rice sack) to Chief Minister Raman Singh.
Before both the elections, BPL cards were made in a disproportionate number, bureaucrats raised the alarm, sought an immediate deletion of these forged cards, but the government decided otherwise. And in both cases, the state exchequer suffered heavy losses, running into several crores.
The Congress has now demanded a CBI inquiry into all ration cards made in Chhattisgarh in the past six-seven years. While the government has admitted that forged cards were made, it claimed there was no malafide intention, cards were deleted by due process and there was no loss.
“Enrollment of beneficiaries for ration cards is a continuous process unaffected by any external event including elections. The process of verifying ration cards is a long drawn affair as the government ensures that no rightful beneficiary is deprived of his food security,” Food Minister Punnu Lal Mohle told The Indian Express.
The MKSY was launched in 2007 and instantly termed an innovative food scheme, under which the government created several categories of BPL ration cards and began distributing rice at Rs 3 per kg. Soon after the new ration cards were made under MKSY, then Food Secretary Dr Alok Shukla expressed grave concern over the sudden increase in BPL cards.
In a January 9, 2008 letter to collectors, accessed by The Indian Express , he wrote: “After going through ration cards made in all districts it has emerged that a large number of BPL ration cards have been made in many districts. In some districts the figure is more than 70 per cent (of the total population). The Planning Commission has identified 42.52 per cent as the BPL population for Chhattisgarh. If we include poverty lines lists of 1992 and 1997, still the figure cannot go so high.”
“Therefore, it is imperative that these are verified, and if ineligible persons have made cards, they should be immediately cancelled. Complaints are also received that the cards were made for deceased persons and those who have left villages and cities. It has also emerged that at some instances the persons who run fair price shops have kept ration cards of people with them. It is necessary to identify and cancel such ration cards immediately,” Shukla wrote.
He asked the officers “to send all the cancelled cards to the Directorate Food so that these cards are destroyed and removed from the database”. Noting that “the database has several mistakes”, he wrote continued…