Chennai, June 1: In the face of a possible drought and the “June anxieties” over non-availability of Cauvery water for the delta farmers, the ADMK government has begun a huge exercise to hand out rice coupons to ration card holders.
Thousands of men and women queued up before corporations, panchayat unions and government-aided schools across the state this morning to collect the green coupons. About 46,000 government employees were pressed into service at nearly 23,600 centres to verify the names of family card-holders with those listed in their respective area registers before handing out the coupons.
Kickstarting the process at a corporation middle school in Raja Annamalaipuram, minister for food and civil supplies P. Mohan told reporters the system was to ensure that subsidised rice under the public distribution system reached the “really poor and the needy”.
The system, introduced by the ADMK government last year, had substantially cut the food subsidy bill and curbed the problem of bogus ration cards. The government made it a rule that the rice coupons (in denominations of 5, 3 and 2 kg) would be given only to the head of the family after verifying his photograph on the ration card.
If the head is not in town on the assigned dates, he has to authorise another member of his family in writing to collect the coupons, which will entitle the family to draw up to 20 kg of rice a month. The system showed results as bogus card- holders tend to shy away from such a verification system, a source said.
A little over 1.36 crore pink cards (for families that have opted to buy only rice) were in circulation on March 31. But with the rice coupon system introduced from July 1 last year, officials claim that only 1.2 crore family card-holders have received the coupons. Since the same number of people are expected to get the coupons this year, too, the system will have helped “weed out” 16 lakh bogus cards, the source said, adding that it had reduced the food subsidy bill.
The 1.2 crore cardholders entitled to get the rice coupons include about 7.16 lakh very poor families identified as beneficiaries under the Centre-sponsored Antyodaya Anna Yojana. They can draw up to 35 kg of rice per month at a subsidised rate of Rs 3 per kg.
The movement towards a leaner PDS in Tamil Nadu can be gleaned from one trend: the food subsidy bill reached an unmanageable level of Rs 1,540 crore in 2001-02, forcing the government to restructure the system. This year, only Rs 600 crore has been provided towards food subsidy in the state budget.