Also makes surprise checks at fair price shops

The Central Vigilance Committee on Public Distribution System headed by Justice D.P. Wadhwa held a closed-door meeting with district officials here on Wednesday.

The committee, formed on the Supreme Court's direction, comprises Meenakshi Chauhan, Susheela R.Bhat and Aashish Arya, Members, J.K. Bhutani, Section Officer, and J.C. Uprety, Private Secretary to the Chairman.

Official sources told The Hindu that the committee focused mainly on the system analysis. Since it did not hold any public hearing, neither its visit was publicised nor any public representation received, as was the case in Chennai and Puducherry.

Initially, the district officials briefed the committee about operational aspects and submitted all the records pertaining to the PDS, including the number of fair price shops, ration cards in circulation, quantum of essential commodities being supplied and stock position.

Details gathered

The committee also gathered details about the quantum of goods diverted from the PDS and their seizure. From the lists of the fair price shops run by the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation, the Food Cell, the cooperative societies and the Self-Help Groups, the members selected the fair prices shops for random inspection.

Later, the committee members, divided into three teams, covered various parts of the district to make surprise checks in fair price shops and to interact with the card-holders.

Activists disappointed

Sources quoting Justice Wadhwa said that since he had to submit his report straight to the Supreme Court, he could not share the findings with the press now. However, the committee's unpublicised visit left social activists and consumer forums disappointed because they could not make representations.

T. Ravindran, district secretary of the All India Agricultural Workers Union, said that when he approached one of the Members for handing over a representation he was asked to e-mail it to the Chairman.

Mr. Ravindran sought formation of a supervision committee, consisting of representatives of all political parties and voluntary organisations, to oversee the functioning of the fair price shops.

General secretary of the Consumer Federation of Tamil Nadu M. Nizamudeen said it was a cause for concern that the committee chose to be closeted with the officials without meeting the public representatives.

The federation was of the opinion that since the fair price shops were being run by various agencies malpractices could not be effectively checked, and therefore, for their efficient running called for bringing the entire system under a single umbrella or department.

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