While the Anna Bhagya scheme was launched with much fanfare across the state, the Food and Civil Supplies Department is trying to fix glitches in acquiring BPL ration cards.
Food and Civil Supplies Commissioner Harsh Gupta told Express: “We are looking at the problem of getting introducers for new BPL card applicants as we have been receiving complaints regarding this.”
The Department has already said an introducer is not necessary for APL card-holders, though the modalities are still being worked out. Most new BPL card applicants are like Mubeen Taj (32), a resident of Aswath Nagar in Thanisandra, who has been trying to get it from June 16. But her efforts are being stymied at every stage.
According to the existing rules, it is mandatory that only a valid ration card-holder of the same taluk can introduce a new BPL applicant. But Taj has not been able to find any introducers, as they demand money, which she cannot afford.
“My husband earns a meager salary. Unless we pay the introducer the daily wage which he or she has to forego for their day’s leave to assist us, I do not think we can get the ration card registration done,” Taj rued.
Her father Abdul Khadar, a scrap dealer, has submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on July 3 seeking deletion of the introducer rule.
This apart, as per the government rules, an SMS has to be sent to a specific number, upon which a token number will be issued to the applicant which should be used during registration. But Taj’s family do not own a mobile phone to send an SMS, thereby further reducing her chances of registration.
When Express visited a few centres in the city, there were several glaring problems. These include data entry mistakes, excess fee collection against the prescribed amount `50, touts demanding bribes at the registering centre, frequent power cuts and server issues, rude behaviour of officials, no display of information at the centres and irregular timings.
As the ration card is important for a lot of BPL families and is required to avail almost all government benefits, the Institute of Public Health conducted a study last week to check its effectiveness in a city slum.
Out of a sample of 132 households at the Bharatmata slum area in KG Halli, 37 per cent did not have mobile phones. A good seven per cent of families were illiterate and could not read an SMS either in English or Kannada.
“It is not an easy process as laid down by the Department. We were prompted to do this study as our domestic help was often asking us to read and tell her about the SMS from the Department,” Dr B S Triveni of IPH.
“Around 60 per cent of the people in the surveyed slum did not have ration cards. The government needs to bring in a user-friendly process of registration for it be effectively used,” she adds.
Harsh Gupta said it is not necessary that people use their own mobile phone, but can take help from neighbours and relatives. “If people do not have a mobile phone, they can use someone else’s phone to send SMS to get the token number and security code. To ensure that the system is not misused, we have a check in place where not more than five SMS will be accepted from the same mobile number,” Gupta said. Still, he added, the Department was looking into this problem also.
Regarding demanding excess money and other complaints, he said, “It is all an outsourced job. People need not necessarily depend on a single centre. If they find some fault, they can always opt for another. We certainly will take action if we receive complaints,” he adds.
He said the Department has plans to start accepting registrations from BangaloreOne centres.