The State government, which launched the Anna Bhagya scheme to provide Below Poverty Line (BPL) families rice at Re. 1 a kg, has now decided to put a stringent cap on eligibility. A recent circular directs Food and Civil Supplies officers to ensure that not more than 70 per cent households in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas are brought under the food security umbrella.
This revision drive is being termed as an exercise to weed out “ineligible” beneficiaries. However, attempts to fix a cap on the number of cards has in the past been controversial, with many arguing that it often results in errors of exclusion.
The drive to reduce the number of cards as per this criterion will be held in two phases. In the first phase, the officers will review fresh applications for BPL cards and in the second, all existing cardholders will undergo scrutiny. The department has designated Fair Price Shop Level Officers (FLOs) to conduct the drive.
A circular of September 28, issued by the Office of the Commissioner of Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, states: “The respective Deputy Directors should ensure that the number of BPL families remain within the acceptable range of 70 per cent in rural and 50 per cent in urban areas.”
At present, over 75 per cent of families in the State have BPL cards, with some districts above the average. For instance, in Hassan district, 80 per cent of families have ration cards. About 95 per cent of rural families and 64 per cent of urban families here fall below the poverty line.
“Now we have to bring down the numbers. We have designated village accountants, panchayat development officers as FLOs for reviewing cards. Food Inspectors will do a random verification of 5 per cent of reports submitted by each fair price shop level officer. Further, senior officers such as tahsildars, executive officers and assistant commissioners will verify 0.5 per cent reports,” said D.E. Mahadevappa, Deputy Director of Food and Civil Supplies in Hassan.
The number of fresh applications is also high, with the demand going up after the scheme was launched.
As per the guidelines issued by the department, the first phase of revision of fresh applications should end by October 31. The verification has to be done as per the Government Order issued in August, 2013, which lists 14 criteria to identify those ineligible under the scheme.