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

Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said on Friday that the central government has found that 70 lakh beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act are “doubtful” and have shared their data with states for “ground verification”.

In a press conference, Pandey also said that between 2013 and 2021, 4.74 crore ration cards were deleted or cancelled by the states.

“Recently, a similar exercise has been done and around 70 lakh beneficiaries have been suspected and now the data has been again sent to the respective states for ground verification,” Pandey said.

Pandey said: “If out of those 70 [lakh] even 50 or 60 percent 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 their place.

“The creation of space is a continuous process. Today a person may be entitled, tomorrow he may not be entitled because of economic welfare. As his economic condition improves, he may not be entitled. He may be removed; One more person will come,” said Pandey.

According to data shared by the food ministry, 4.74 crore ration cards have been deleted/cancelled between 2014 and 2021 by states and union territories in the last nine years.

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

The data also shows that 46 lakh ration cards were deleted/cancelled during the two COVID years (2020 and 2021).

State-wise analysis of the data shows that 4.74 crore ration cards were deleted/cancelled, of which the highest 1.73 crores were 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 across the country can be covered. According to the food ministry data, the current NFSA coverage is 79.74 crores.

Pandey said that around 1.58 crore people may still be covered under NFSA.

Pandey also started the common registration facility for ration cards. Using this facility any 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 in a single place.

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

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