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Fake ration cards: Rot runs deep

More than 500 officials who have served in Delhi Govt’s food and civil supplies department are under the scanner for issuing over 1.7 lakh bogus ration cards, reports Anuradha Mukherjee.
Hindustan Times | By Anuradha Mukherjee, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 08, 2008 11:47 PM IST

More than 500 officials who have served in Delhi government’s food and civil supplies department are under the scanner for issuing over 1.7 lakh bogus ration cards and conniving with shopkeepers in siphoning off foodgrains and kerosene oil worth Rs 257 crore, said a top official on Tuesday. They will face criminal prosecution if found guilty.

Food Supplies and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Vijay Dev said the department was in the process of initiating action against officials found involved in the scam. “We have already cancelled these 1,70,598 cards that were identified by the department as bogus. In the last few days we have also sent 142 teams all over Delhi to seize and seal the records pertaining to ration cards that are kept in every circle office of the department,” Dev said.

“In case officials or local representatives have colluded, their first reaction would be to destroy these records.”

Dev said these documents would prove crucial in identifying the culprits within the department and others who might be involved in the scam. “We will scrutinise these documents to identify the field officials who had verified the papers for issuing ration cards and take action against the guilty even if they are serving in other departments,” he added.

Those in the know, however, said it would be next to impossible for the Delhi government to probe the scam on its own as the nexus involved local MLAs, fair price shop owners and other private persons, apart from government officials. “The government should ask a central investigating agency like CBI to step in,” said an official.

Delhi Food and Civil Supplies Minister Haroon Yusuf said the government was going to probe the matter on its own as the department identified the bogus ration cards on its own. “We have been conducting regular checks and conducted 102 raids already this year. We also registered 26 FIRs with the police in this connection. One must not forget that it was our government that had identified five lakh bogus cards in 2002. This present finding is also a result of our efforts,” said Yusuf.

Earlier in the day, during a review of the food and civil supplies department, it was decided that foodgrains, edible and kerosene oil would be distributed through the Public Distribution System in the first 15 days of the month.

“The department will ensure that the fair price shops are open and providing supplies to card holders. I will personally monitor the situation,” said Yusuf at a press conference in the Capital on Tuesday evening.

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