In what could set the alarm bells ringing for people of the state, valley’s Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) has no record or set procedure for printing and distribution of ration tickets to its ground functionaries for onward issuance to consumers. The department has no set procedure for serializing and indexing of the tickets, which leaves them vulnerable for fudging and faking.
According to official sources, the department lacks proper indexing and record maintenance of the ration tickets in wake of Jammu and Kashmir Bank having taken over the printing of the tickets from the department two years back.
“Earlier the ration cards were printed at the Government Printing Press and there was a proper record of printing, indexing and issuance to field functionaries, however, since the JK Bank under a scheme provided the tickets free of cost to the department, there is no such record maintained for the ration tickets. This has resulted in lack of accountability as far as issuance and tracking of the tickets is concerned”, official sources told a local news agency KNS.
In wake of various sections of the society in the state raising questions over issuance of state subject certificates in favour of non residents of the state, the sources said fake ration tickets were being used for getting the certificates issued in favour of non-state subjects. They said the ration tickets are also being used by rich and influential people for illegally taking benefit of various schemes meant for Below Poverty Line people and other weaker sections of the society. “Many well off people are getting land and other valuable assets from the government by obtaining fake BPL and AAY ration tickets on highly subsidized rates”, the sources said adding the ration tickets were being sold at exorbitant prices in the market.
The sources said there are thousands of fake ration tickets which have been printed, registered and provided to people, mostly non-state subjects of the state, to use them for various purposes like opening of bank accounts etc.
“Earlier the paper used for printing the ration tickets was of a special type which was not available freely in the market, however, now anyone can get the ration tickets printed since ordinary paper is used for printing the cards”, the officials claimed.
“While printing there has to be a sequence while numbering the ration tickets, however, we come across ration tickets which do not match any sequence/serial. We feel helpless as there is no way that we could tell which serial numbers are correct and which are not, in absence of any record of indexes maintained by the department”, said a senior official.
“We have a total of 10 lakh ration ticket holders in Kashmir province, out of which 2.5 lakh fall in BPL category, 1.5 lakh in AAY and 50 thousand in Annapurna. Rest of the ticket holders are of APL category. The ration ticket serial numbers are printed without any break in between, but there are ration tickets with serial number 12 lakh or even 30 lakh which in no way seems logical”, he added.
What has raised more questions over functioning of the department is the fact that the records pertaining to 2006 to 2009 period with regard to the ration tickets have been destroyed by the department without any audit or verification of the records and documents. “No official records can be destroyed unless they have been verified and properly audited by competent authorities. This gives rise to more doubts as far as issuing and printing of the ration tickets is concerned”, the sources in the department told news agency.
Departmental sources revealed that the lower functionaries of the department have failed to provide the higher authorities a list and index of ration tickets, despite repeated communications asking them to file the indexed lists of consumers in their wards and Tehsils. “We have issued at least 20 letters to TSOs in the city to provide us the list and indexes but despite passage of two years, no records are being made available to us”, said a senior official of the CAPD department. He said there was tacit understanding at various levels in the department for not providing the lists which would make them more accountable.
Official sources said that lakhs of consumers in the valley were not availing the subsidized ration from various ghats and outlets, which is another reason why the lists are not being provided. “When there is proper indexing, they would have to provide us the coupons which would be validated and the unused ration would have to be returned to the department, however, in order to sell the unclaimed ration and K Oil etc in black market, fake coupons are used for getting ration issued”,
the sources said.
Claiming that the scandal involved millions of rupees, the sources said complaints have already been filed to the state Vigilance organization. “The vigilance and crime branch have been investigating the matter for very long now but there has been no headway which raises questions over their credibility”, they added.
When contacted, Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Chowdhary Muhammad Ramzan said that he had no knowledge of the issue and that he would look into the matter. “Since I am new to the ministry, I will look into the issue”, he said.