BENGALURU: All is not fair with the fair price distribution network in the State. The creation of as many as 1.65 lakh fake coupons has put a big question mark on the credibility of the Aadhaar-linked biometric system, which was introduced to issue bar-coded coupons for the Public Distribution System (PDS). And all these fake coupons were unearthed within a month of the introduction of the scheme in August.
According to sources, till date food grains, kerosene and other items worth over Rs. 12.37 crore have been misused by franchisees in collusion with fair price shop owners and food inspectors. The revelation comes as a huge embarrassment to the State government, which has been claiming time and again that it has made the Aadhaar-linked system foolproof.
Bengaluru district tops the list in generating maximum number of illegal coupons. In one case, as many as 470 coupons were generated in the name of a single person - Rajesh. His Aadhaar number was misused for the purpose.
As many as 35,368 illegal coupons were generated in Bengaluru Urban district by authorized franchisees in August. It was followed by 28,145 coupons in Hubballi-Dharwad, 20,138 in Kalaburagi, 17,503 in Tumakuru, 13,383 in Mysuru, 8,200 in Kolar, 6,662 in Vijayapura, 4,369 in Bagalkot, 3,600 in Ramanagara, 2,359 in Belagavi, 1,973 in Bidar, 1,023 in Ballari and 1,173 coupons in Mandya districts. However, no such irregularities were reported from Udupi, Chitradurga, Hassan and Uttara Kannada.
The Food and Civil Supplies Department provides a User ID and password to the franchisees, which they misuse to generate bogus coupons.
“The department has taken strict action against all the franchisees and fair price shops indulging in foul play. They have lost their licences and have been booked under relevant sections of the Essential Commodities Act, the Karnataka Essential Commodities (Public Distribution System) Public Control Order, 1992 and Section 420, 468 and 471 of IPC,” said Harsh Gupta, Secretary, Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs.
Such illegal coupons cannot be generated further, he added.
On the alleged involvement of food inspectors in the fraud, he said; “Officials are not involved in generating illegal coupons. However, their role in creation of bogus ration cards cannot be ruled out completely. We are probing the same and suitable action will be taken.”
The fraud came to light when department officials were informed of the irregularities committed by franchisees.
On verifying the details available in the computers used by the Photo Bio-Centre (PBC) of franchisees, creation of unauthorized coupons was unearthed.