Cyber cafés charge Rs. 50 to Rs. 500 per application, complain applicants

Following a torrent of complaints from aggrieved applicants, the State government has decided to scrap the system of an “introducer” for applying for ration cards for above poverty line (APL) families having LPG connection.

At present, APL and BPL families have to bring an introducer to submit an application seeking a new card online. The decision of having an introducer, who is already a ration card holder, was taken to prevent bogus ration cards.

However, the department has been receiving at least 20 complaints a day against owners of cyber cafés. They have been allegedly charging Rs. 10 for application form, and Rs. 200 to Rs. 500 for uploading an application.

The department has stipulated a fee of Rs. 50 only for uploading the application.

Services have been contracted out to 2,238 Internet parlours, and of them 467 are in Bangalore. Department officials admitted it was a cumbersome procedure, with delay in uploading of applications due to a slow server of the department. Fees charged by parlours vary from Rs. 50 to Rs. 400 per application in the city.

Officials of the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department told The Hindu that it has been decided to abolish the system of introducer. “We are collecting LPG connection data from LPG suppliers,” a senior official said.

LPG book is enough

Instead of the introducer, APL families will now have to produce their domestic LPG book. “This process will start in 10 to 15 days,” the official said. The introducer system will, however, continue for BPL families since they are eligible to many subsidy schemes, the official said.

A cross-section of the people The Hindu spoke to opposed the concept of introducer, and alleged enormous malpractices in fee charged by Internet cafes.

“It’s a burdensome process. It takes more than 30 minutes to take the photo and biometric of my entire family. The introducer charged me Rs. 500,” said Devendra Hegde, resident of Vijayangar, who uploaded his application at Saraswathinagar.

Under the present system, an applicant has to first send an SMS to 9212357123. A token number and a security code will be sent back. The applicant should fill up the online application form using the token number and security code. Besides details of the applicant’s family members, details of an introducer, her/his ration card no. and name should be filled in the application.

The applicant accompanies the introducer to the nearest cyber café where details such as biometric, RR number of the electricity meter and photo ID proof (of both the applicant and the introducer) are collected.

“People are also wary of being introducers as they believe they will be held responsible for any lapse. Moreover, nobody has time to spend 30 minutes with us to complete the process,” said Deepa H., resident of Amarjyothingar.

A frustrated Prasanna Kumar, who spent nearly four hours at a cyber café in Govindarajangar on Sunday for his online application, asked why he needed an introducer when he already had an EPIC, LPG connection and passport of the same address.

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