The number of ration cards falls to 1.43 crore
From 1.73 crore ration cards as against about 1.1 crore families in 2010 in Karnataka, the number of ration cards have now been squeezed down to about 1.43 crore, closer to the number of actual families.
The Food and Civil Supplies Department, which undertook the exercise of weeding out bogus cards in association with the National Informatics Centre, is hopeful of eliminating at least another 20 lakh cards by October 20, the extended last date for converting temporary ration cards as permanent ration cards.
The number of cards was about 1 crore till 2006, from which period of time the government entrusted a private company (Comat Technologies) the task of distributing digitised ration cards under the biometric system.
Between 2006 and 2010 when the contract was terminated, the company had issued over 58 lakh cards without collecting biometric details and without creating database.
The number of cards thus shot up over and above the actual number of census families in the State, the then Food and Civil Supplies Minster Shobha Karandlaje had told the Legislative Assembly.
After terminating the services of Comat Technologies, the department, in association with NIC, worked towards creating a strong database of ration card holders in the State, said Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister D.N. Jeevaraj.
Mr. Jeevaraj told The Hindu that the department did not spend even one tenth of the amount paid to Comat Technologies (about Rs. 60 crore) to create the database, linking ration cards to electricity meter revenue register numbers.
Besides eliminating bogus ration cards, the database and the newly created system allows an individual to apply for new ration card online throughout the year, Mr. Jeevaraj said. The online application system for new ration card, however, has been suspended till the ongoing elimination process is completed, he added.
Food and Civil Supplies Department Secretary B.A. Harish Gowda said that an applicant has to provide the biometric information, fingerprint as well as photograph, of himself and another member of the family, to obtain the ration card.
A system is being introduced where only these two will get groceries after authentication under public distribution system, which will take final shape in a year.
Mr. Harish Gowda said that unlike many other systems, including smart cards which can be used even without the presence of the cardholder, the biometric system is foolproof and cannot be misused. As a result, the government subsidies will reach the intended beneficiary, he said.
He said that biometric registration has been made mandatory for existing card-holders, holders of temporary cards (issued by Comat Technologies) as well as new applicants.
The government did not spend any money on collecting biometric data; instead it allowed them to collect Rs. 20 per applicant in urban areas. In gram panchayat limits, the biometric details have to be collected by the panchayats after linking the applicant to the property tax register, he said.
Of the 58 lakh temporary ration card holders, only about 36 lakh had applied for converting their cards into permanent cards, indicating that many had held more than one ration card.
Making biometric details mandatory has enabled department officials to identify bogus applicants and weed out existing multiple cards, he said.