ISSUE A system should be in place to ensure that the experience at ration shops is hassle-free

The Universal Public Distribution System followed in our State aims to ensure food security to all, particularly the economically weak, by making available quality essential commodities at affordable prices through fair price shops. Though it is supposed to be more effectual here than in most States in the country, there still needs to be a system in place to guarantee that the consumers benefit.

We receive complaints time and again about the non-availability of items at the ration shops even during the second week of the month, rude behaviour of the sales personnel, delay in the issuance of new card and so on, despite the website projecting a clear picture on how it should be.

For instance, Kannan, a labourer, came to us three months ago with the complaint that despite applying for a new ration card after submitting all the documents and receiving the acknowledgment last January, he had not got the new card. His visits to the office concerned yielded no result. When we took up the matter with the department, we were asked to email the details. We did as advised, but then, nothing moved. Later, when we spoke to one of the officers, we were told that all the officers were busy with the elections and that it would be sorted out after the elections. Though we couldn't understand the relation between the two, we waited. Now, it's almost two months since the elections, and Kannan is yet to get the card.

Ezhilarasan's case is worse. It's over two years since he got the acknowledgment after verification, and now, the officials say that it is time-barred and that he has to reapply!

We got a complaint recently from a woman who had gone to the ration shop after five months. The salesman had refused to let her buy things due to the gap. She had to go to the zonal office for an acknowledgment to have the supply resumed. When we spoke to the official concerned, we were told that there were no such rules, and the official asked us to advice the complainant to get the reason for refusal, in writing from the salesman. However, the salesman did not agree to this, and we plan to represent to the department.

We also get complaints on the rude approach of the salesmen at fair price shops, while the service benchmark for these shops state that the service personnel should be courteous to cardholders. Moreover, regardless of the raids conducted by the department to check for standards, there continue to be deficiencies.

Also, it is time the public realised its responsibility, understood that the public distribution system was meant for the needy, and obtained cards accordingly. This would help prevent misuse to a great extent, and help the Government function more effectively.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries contact 24914358/24460387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)

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