MADURAI/CHENNAI: Supplies that you do not buy at the ration shop may get sold in the black market and billed under your card.
Geetha R, a resident of T Nagar in Chennai, bought rice and sugar from the nearest fair price or ration shop in her locality and waited for the Point of Sale (PoS) system to send a message bill to her phone. After receiving the message she left for home and forgot about it until a week later she received another message bill saying that she has purchased wheat, when she did not.
Beneficiaries of the State’s Public Distribution System (PDS) have been receiving bogus message bills for items they have not purchased from the ration shop. They fear that the retail staff illegally sell their share of the product on the black market and simply bill it under the card of somebody who has not purchased that commodity.
Another resident of Villivakkam faced a similar problem. He purchased pulses and sugar and received a bill for the same. However, a few days later, he got a message bill stating that he had purchased palm oil as well. “I never use palm oil; so I never buy it. After this incident, I bought the oil and gave it to a poor family nearby. I don’t want fair price products to be sold illegally at higher cost,” he said adding that he fears that distribution of his PDS smart card may get detained if he lodges a complaint.
The situation is prevalent elsewhere in the State too. Speaking to Express in Madurai, B Selvam said his wife went to the ration shop last month to purchase dal and returned due to lack of stock. “A few days later I received an SMS stating that I have purchased dal and palm oil using my ration card. I was shocked to see this and went to my ration shop and enquired about it but the employee brushed it aside, saying I received the text perhaps due to a technical glitch. When I was discussing this issue with a friend, he told me that he had recently purchased two items from the ration shop and when he came home he received an SMS saying that he had purchased four items from the ration shop,” he claimed.
The local official at Madurai denied malpractices in the e-PDS system and said that there are certain technical problems in linking the people’s mobile number to their ration cards. However, officials at the headquarters in Chennai admitted that there is a possibility of fraud and encouraged people to report such incidents so that the Civil Supplies-CID could investigate the case.
Digitisation of the PDS has increased reporting of such incidents, according to a senior official in the Civil Supplies Corporation. “People are aware of the illegal sales because of the message-bill and we encourage people to report such incidents,” the official said adding that entire system from stock procurement to sales would be updated real-time digitally in a year.
“We are working towards increasing transparency in order to prevent such bogus sales of our products in black market,” the official said, noting citizens may be unaware of the fraud or technical error that happens in their name if their mobile number is not linked with their cards.