Even as the State Government is taking various measures to streamline the public distribution system, the only Maitree fair price shop in the district remains closed for the last five months. The Odisha State Civil Supplies Corporation had opened the Maitree fair shop here in 2004.
It mainly dealt with TPDS commodities, such as BPL, Annapurna and APL rice, wheat, levy sugar and kerosene, issued to bona fide consumers and beneficiaries through valid ration cards. The shop also provided non-PDS items such as potato, onion, pulses, edible oil, soaps and salt at a reasonable price to the consumers throughout the year.
Locals said the shop was helpful in market intervention when there was shortage or price hike of any essential commodities.
However, as the shop incurred loss, the Civil Supplies authorities closed it in March. As per the norms, a Maitree shop is required to run as a profit centre.
Locals alleged that Civil Supplies officials who were engaged in the shop embezzled funds and commodities on a large-scale leading to losses. As per reports, the number of consumers of the Maitree shop had come down to 620 in March from 2,200 in 2004. After its closure, the existing consumers were attached to other retail units.
Consumers alleged that the retailers are giving them less than the prescribed quantity of PDS commodities. “The retailers are providing us nine kg of wheat instead of 10 kg and 33 kg of BPL rice against the prescribed 35 kg. This apart, the wheat that is provided to us is of inferior quality,” alleged Prabhat Mishra, a BPL beneficiary of Jagatsinghpur town.
Although many beneficiaries like Mishra have time and again lodged complaints with the Civil Supplies officials concerned, no action has been taken yet to set things right.
Expressing helplessness in solving the issue, Assistant Civil Supplies Officer Bishnu Chandra Pradhan said the Maitree shop had to be closed down as it was facing heavy loss. “Any action into reopening the Maitree shop can only be taken after an inquiry into the misappropriation allegations,” he said.