70 lakh ration beneficiaries are suspect, states asked to verify: Govt

The Union government has found that 70 lakh beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act are “suspect” and has shared their data with states for “ground verification”, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said Friday.

At a press conference, Pandey also said 4.74 crore ration cards have been deleted or canceled by states between 2013 and 2021.

“Very recently, a similar exercise has been done and around 70 lakh beneficiaries have been found to be suspected and now that data has been again pushed to respective states to do the ground verification,” Pandey said.

Pandey said: “If out of those 70 [lakh] even 50 or 60 per cent are actually found to be not genuine, that space could also be created. So, it’s a continuous exercise.”

Responding to a question, Pandey said 4.74 crore ration cards, which would translate to around 19 crore beneficiaries, have been “deleted” and new beneficiaries have been added in place of those.

“Creation of space is an ongoing process. Today, a person may be entitled, tomorrow because of his economic well-being he may not be entitled. His economic status improves, he may not be entitled. He may be deleted; another person will come,” Pandey said.

As per data shared by the Food Ministry, of the 4.74 crore ration cards deleted or canceled by states and Union Territories in the last nine years, 4.28 crore have been deleted/cancelled between 2014 and 2021.

The data show that 84.26 lakh ration cards were deleted/cancelled in 2016. This is the highest number during the last nine years for which figures are available.

Data also show that 46 lakh ration cards were deleted/cancelled during the two Covid years (2020 and 2021).

A state-wise analysis of the data shows that of the 4.74 crore ration cards deleted/cancelled, the highest of 1.73 crore was in Uttar Pradesh. UP was followed by West Bengal (68.62 lakh deleted/cancelled ration cards), Maharashtra (42.66 lakh), Karnataka (30.09 lakh) and Rajasthan (22.66 lakh).

Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013, 81.35 crore people can be covered across the country. As per Food Ministry data, the current NFSA coverage stands at 79.74 crore.

About 1.58 crore people can still be covered under the NFSA, Pandey said.

Pandey also launched the Common Registration Facility for ration cards. By using this facility, a person can apply for a ration card from anywhere in the country.

The web-based facility will initially be piloted in 11 states and Union Territories — Assam, Goa, Lakshadweep, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Tripura and Uttrakhand.

Under the present system, a person can apply for a ration card offline or through the web portal of the state of residence. The new platform, however, will provide the application facility for people of all states at a single place.

“This portal is only an enabler for states/UTs to complete their inclusion exercise under NFSA,” Pandey said, adding that the portal will help in streamlining data management while providing a platform to states/UTs to help in inclusion of beneficiaries.


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