Eager to access the benefits of the Anna Bhagya and Gruha Lakshmi schemes, thousands of eligible families in the state have been waiting to apply for ration cards. Unfortunately, the application process was closed before the elections as 2.95 lakh pending applications were pending since March 2023. Officials say applications have been pending the approval of the government.
Shashi Kumar, a resident of Karadi village, Bagalkot district, for instance, applied for a ration card just before the election. The Anna Bhagya scheme, he thought, would mitigate food expenses for his family of three. At the time, the cost of gas, vegetables and food grains had increased exponentially.
“I was told that the application is rejected. I was not given a reason. Officials told me to come back in two months,” he says. Two months later, he was told that applications for new ration cards were closed. “I have been waiting since,” he says.
Virupama, a Koppal-based grassroots activist, explains that the procedure to get a ration card has slowed down over the past two years.
“Other volunteers and I are actively intervening in at least 10 such cases where people have been trying to get a ration card,” she says. In many of these cases, Virupama says applications are rejected without cause and applicants are left guessing, adding or subtracting from their documents, hoping that the attempt would be successful.
“I understand that there is reason for caution on the part of officials in issuing new applications due to misuse. There are several instances that I have witnessed where even landowners get BPL ration cards in their wives’ names, but because of this overt suspicion poor people are also suffering,” she says. The solution, in her opinion, is to conduct spot checks to determine the size of a household, living conditions and need for a ration card.
In Yadgir district, another family of four has been similarly trying to apply for a ration card. Thimmeswamy (name changed) was a migrant working in Goa. After years of trying to make ends meet through seasonal work, he finally settled down in Yadgir.
“We do not have land. My wife and I work as agricultural labourers. The schemes that have been put in place are benefitting our neighbours, but we are not in luck,” he says. Thimmeswamy applied for a ration card this time last year, he has followed up every other month since to no avail.
Changes and modifications
Another complaint, as Vasantha, a domestic worker from Hassan city, narrates is the inordinate delays in carrying out corrections in the ration cards. “My children have grown up and left my house. I am not able to remove them from my ration card. I have even been removed from the BPL category as their incomes are counted as well,” she says.
From October she has been trying to remove the names of her son and daughter, who are now married and have families of their own. “I reached when I was told to come to the food office in my district. They processed only 20 applications. However, before my turn came, the computer operators told me that there was a server issue and turned me back,” she says.
Kanaga Valli M, Commissioner of the Food and Civil Supplies Department, explains that since there was a huge demand to avail of the Anna Bhagya and direct benefit transfer schemes, the number of applications for changes in ration cards increased from 53,000 in August and September combined to 1.8 lakh in October. “We had some server issues initially because of the load, but have overcome it and have processed 1.3 lakh applications in October,” she says.
Additionally, the processing of pending applications for new ration cards began last week, she clarifies. It is not clear, however, when people will be allowed to file fresh applications for ration cards.
(Published 12 November 2023, 23:30 IST)