Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: As many as 1.6 lakh bogus cards were detected and weeded out in a massive drive over the past few months, Food Minister E.V. Velu informed the Assembly on Monday.

Replying to a calling attention motion tabled by S. Peter Alphonse, he said the ELCOT Managing Director, in an interview, had stated that the number of bogus cards was 34 lakh. After intensive verification, the number was found to be 1.6 lakh. In 2004, the number of family cards was 1.97 crore. In 2005, another 36.59 lakh cards were added. After the DMK came to power, it rationalised the software used for issuing the cards, and 34,51,312 cards were found to have discrepancies.

Department personnel began making house visits to ascertain if the cards were genuine. Officials and staff visited 30,05,217 houses. At the end of this exercise, 69,770 cards were found to be bogus. The next process of finding out bogus cards was done after zeroing in on the ration shops that reported 100 per cent offtake. Each house was visited in the catchment area of these shops. As many as 96,520 cards were found to be bogus. The total worked out to 1,66,290 cards. By weeding them out, the State saved Rs.33.25 crore.

Mr. Velu said Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had written stating that the number of bogus cards in the country was about 3 crore and urging States to take action. Following this, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had convened a meeting of Food Department officials. Initially two districts were taken up for complete verification.

The department will take up intensive drives in all districts to eliminate bogus cards, he said. From now on, responsibility would be fixed on the official issuing the cards instead of merely taking action against field-level staff.