October 5, 2021 5:08:11 am
Weeks after the Mamata Banerjee government started the pilot project of the “Duare Ration [ration doorstep delivery]” programme, the state administration has started a survey to find out the number of inactive ration cards and weed out the “ghost beneficiaries”.
The state’s population as per the 2011 Census is 9.13 crore, while Food and Supplies Department data shows there are 9.8 crore ration card holders. Of them, more than one crore may be ghost recipients, according to the state administration.
In a circular dated September 23, the state Food and Supplies department instructed all district administrations to take stock of the status of ration cards in their areas, and find out how many of the cardholders were dead or non-existent.
“In case of death of the ration cardholder, the ration card needs to be surrendered by the family by submitting ‘Forms for the surrender of ration card (Form 7)’. It is seen that the surrender of ration cards in such cases is disproportionately low compare to the expected death rate,” read the circular.
The district administrations started their surveys last week, said an official, adding that it was causing the state to leak quintals of ration supplies since dealers receive the allotted amount calculated based on the number of cardholders in their area. Sources said the government spends Rs 4,500 crore annually on rations. “If we are able to identify the ‘ghost ration cards’ then, we will be able to save more than Rs 500 crore. Not only that, during this time of financial crisis we can use the money for other schemes,” said a government official.
Food and Supplies Minister Rathin Ghosh told The Indian Express on Monday that the identification process would be finished this month. He added, “We will not cancel those ration cards that will be identified as ‘ghosts’. We will deactivate them as some ration cardholders may be alive and may claim their benefits in the future. First, we want to assess the number of inactive ration cards.”
A senior official of the Food and Supplies Department said, “Special plans have been put in place to identify these ‘ghost ration cards’. Field inspectors have been instructed to work to identify them in their areas. The government also plans to tally the ration list with the government’s beneficiary project account. We will be able to identify easily from the beneficiary list who have died in a particular family and if their ration card is still active.”
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