Three-fourths of Karnataka poor!

More than 1 crore families out of a total 1.31 crore in the State are in possession of BPL cards. The question is, how many are bogus.

August 12, 2015 03:26 am | Updated November 16, 2021 04:34 pm IST

If the number of Below Poverty Line (BPL) ration cards issued in Karnataka is a real indicator, then 83 per cent of the State is poor. Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies Dinesh Gundu Rao admitted that more than one crore families (1.1 crore) out of a total 1.31 crore in the State have secured BPL ration cards. And, many of them are suspected to be bogus obtained by faking lower income.

Families secure BPL cards for obtaining monthly subsidised rations under the public distribution system. In some districts, nearly 90 per cent of households are listed as living under BPL category. Only 11.77 lakh families have secured above poverty line (APL) cards in the State.

Now, faced with a mounting food subsidy, Mr. Rao has instructed food inspectors and owners of over 20,000 ration shops to crack down on bogus ration cards. Inspectors have been told to file criminal cases against those found holding bogus cards.

Sources in the department maintained that many APL families, including government employees, secure BPL cards to be eligible to avail benefits under various schemes, including health insurance. A railway employee in Mysuru was found guilty of being in possession of a BPL card, and a penalty was imposed, according to officials.

Though they declined to mention the number of bogus cardholders, according to rough estimates, at least 15 per cent of BPL cards are bogus in the State.

The department had set July 31, 2015, as the last date for voluntary surrendering of bogus BPL cards. Food inspectors have commenced the process of unearthing bogus cardholders, with the support of vigilance committees and owners of ration shops.

The food subsidy increased more than three times in the last few years, up from Rs. 650 crore in 2007-08 to Rs. 2,300 crore in 2014-15. In the first four months of this year (2015-16), the subsidy amount crossed Rs. 750 crore, said officials.

Free distribution of rice for BPL families under “populist schemes” like the Anna Bhagya are likely to push the subsidy bill higher.

“It is difficult to weed out bogus ration cards when vigilance committees at the shop-level are not functioning,” said a representative of Civic, a Bengaluru-based NGO, which monitors functioning of PDS.

The department has proposed to send SMS alerts from August 1, requesting families to lift their quota of rations on time and has collected cellphone numbers of more than 80 lakh BPL and APL families. All cards have also been linked to biometric system to ensure subsidy for targeted population, according to officials.

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