CHENNAI: With the staff of ration shops given the task to distribute a whopping Rs 5,150 crore in cash as part of the Pongal gift, the civil supplies department has requested the police to beef up security for ration shops. The government will distribute gift hamper including Rs 2500 cash to 2.10 crore card holders.
A senior official from the Civil supplies department said, “For security and crowd management, a minimum of two police personnel are requested at every ration shop till completion of gift distribution. The civil supplies staff who handles cash will also be provided security for transporting the money. A standard protocol will be followed,” he said.
The civil supplies department on Saturday commenced token distribution for households to receive the Pongal gift. While 100 persons will be given gifts during morning hours, the remaining 100 will be given post noon. The State has 25,589 full-time and 9,580 part-time ration shops.
Even as wages for workers under MGNREGS was paid through banks, the decision to distribute high volume of cash through ration shops has raised concerns among civil supplies staff. The staff will be handling about `5 lakh cash per day, thereby a total `20 to 30 lakh cash will be distributed from each shop. A total of `1,300 to 1350 crore cash would be distributed per day.
“Except enforcing agencies such as police and others, such a huge volume of cash has never been dealt by any government departments. Considering that a large chunk of bottom level employees are women, the government should chalk out proper security arrangements for withdrawal of cash, transportation and distribution,” said a women employee of a ration shop.
In the past, complaints of staff losing money, errors in accounts and several other issues have surfaced. Sources said more than 70,000 police personnel are expected to be deployed for security.
Meanwhile, in wake of complaints that tokens were taken by ruling party members, the civil supplies department has asked field staff not to distribute tokens. “Tokens can only be given by persons deployed by the civil supplies department. In case, residents have not received tokens in the event of change of address, they can get Pongal gift from shops on January 13. All rice card holders are eligible,” said the official.