Tamil Nadu sees increase in BPL cards, experts cite 'liberal rules' as reason

Last May, 1.09 crore poor families in Tamil Nadu had ration cards, of which 90.96 lakh were priority households and 18.10 lakh were Antyodaya Anna Yojana cards.

Published: 15th June 2022 02:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th June 2022 02:54 AM   |  A+A-

ration cards

Image of ration cards for representational purposes

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  Even as Tamil Nadu is being touted as one of the most developed States, the number of ration cards under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority households (PHH) categories which are meant for people below the poverty line (BPL) has increased by 6.11 lakh since May last year.

However, this doesn't mean poverty has increased; it could simply be because of the relaxations granted in applying for new cards, say experts, adding that it has enhanced food coverage among the poor. People may have also opted for these cards to receive the annual Pongal gift and COVID-19 cash assistance, officials point out.

Last May, 1.09 crore poor families in Tamil Nadu had ration cards, of which 90.96 lakh were PHH and 18.10 lakh were AAY cards. The combined number of AAY and PHH cards jumped to 1.15 crore this June, with the enrolment of 3,65,42,898 people, as per official data. The average size of a BPL family is 3.1 persons.

AAY and PHH ration cardholders are covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), and get commodities from the Union government's pool. However, the State is permitted to define the criteria to identify eligible households.

"About 3.45 crore people in Tamil Nadu are covered under NFSA. We cannot deny cards to anyone on flimsy grounds. We approve new cards as per the guidelines. We no longer consider the size of a family while issuing cards since the credentials are verified through Aadhaar. There is no possibility for duplication," says Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection commissioner V Rajaraman.

Data show the State has 17,34,731 single-member cardholders, who are primarily beneficiaries of pension and other such schemes. AAY and PHH cards are given to households that have widows, terminally-ill persons, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens who have no family support. All primitive tribal households and urban homeless too are eligible for BPL cards.

Madras School of Economics director KR Shanmugam says the data on BPL cards need not be interpreted as an indicator of increasing poverty, but as an exercise to extend food coverage among the poor.

"Pandemic-induced poverty may have encouraged more people to apply for cards. Many who have not applied due to change of address and other reasons may have applied for the relaxations given by the government," he said.

So why were 6.11 lakh more cards issued in a year?

Experts say it could be because of relaxations granted in applying for new cards, and desire for the annual Pongal gift and Rs 4,000 COVID assistance. Pandemic-induced poverty is another factor



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