Govt data on bogus ration cards incorrect, show RTI findings
HT filed the RTI application with the PMO, which redirected the bogus ration card query to the department of food and public distribution. On 12/06/2017 the department then transferred it to all states and union territories.india Updated: Aug 10, 2017 13:59 IST
In February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Lok Sabha that the government had detected 3.95-crore bogus ration cards, using technology and Aadhaar numbers to plug leakage in its social welfare programmes.
But neither the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), nor the department of food and public distribution, or the state governments could readily say how the number was arrived at, official status reports given in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by HT on 12/05/2017 showed.
HT filed the RTI application with the PMO, which redirected the query to the department of food and public distribution. On 12/06/2017 the department then transferred it to all states and union territories.
The application had sought a state-wise breakdown of the total number of bogus ration cards weeded due the use of technology and Aadhaar, as well as the details of those fake cards, including the names and addresses of the beneficiaries.
A month and half on, 17 states and 5 UTs responded, out of which only Andhra Pradesh said that 854,978 BPL Cards including bogus, mismatch, duplicate, double ration cards were removed after Aadhaar Card seeding in the state. Haryana said it had 283,635 ration cards, “and 1,149,988 beneficiaries having duplicate/ repeated Aadhaar numbers in the ePDS. Therefore no information regarding bogus ration cards is available as per record available in PDS data base.”
Interestingly, Tamil Nadu said that 547,000 bogus cards have been eliminated through 100% door to door verification. Goa and Meghalaya said they had no bogus ration cards. Five states said they had funnelled down the RTI request to other departments, while Uttarakhand and Tripura food supplies department transferred the case to all the districts to furnish the information.
Most of the districts responded by saying that information regarding bogus ration cards was not available. Odisha’s food supply and consumer welfare department said that the information sought does not fall under its purview. Whereas Jharkhand said that the information should be directly sought from districts.
Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Delhi furnished figures of deleted or cancelled cards for varying time periods that added up to 2,414,754. But none of them mentioned that they were on account of technology use and Aadhaar, which the RTI had specifically sought.
A month and half on, conspicuous with their absence were some of the big BJP ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Assam. As per the RTI Act, the PIO should reply to RTI within 30 days from date of receipt.
Chandigarh, Puducherry, Lakshadweep and Daman and Diu said they had no bogus ration cards. Andaman and Nicobar Islands responded that after the introduction of e-PDS, directorate of civil supplies and consumer affairs found 7,004 inoperative cards. No cards have been declared as bogus.
In its status update, the department of food and public distribution said information on the first query was available on its official website.
However, the website only had a state-wise breakdown of bogus cards struck off up to February 2016 without any mention of use of Aadhaar. Emails and calls to the PMO and department of food and public distribution did not illicit any response.
None of the government’s departments or agencies furnished information on bogus card holders.
Anjali Bhardwaj of Satark Nagrik Sangathan, who had also filed an RTI seeking these details said, “It’s been 5 months since we filed the RTI but the government has not been able to provide any evidence on the basis of which the PM made this statement, which eventually informs policy decisions and public discourse.”