The Bombay High Court yesterday took a serious view of bogus ration cards in Maharashtra asked the state government to evolve a mechanism to stop the illegal practice and take stern action against guilty officers.
Hearing a PIL, Justice D D Sinha and Justice Vijaya Kapse Tahilramani asked the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit by August 9 giving details about the mechanism it will adopt to prevent the issuance of bogus ration cards.
The PIL, filed by L B Shaikh, an associate of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, alleged that the bogus ration card racket was to the tune of Rs 25,000 crore.
One of the methods of this corrupt practice was to continue the ration card of holders even after their death and lift commodities in their name at cheaper rates from the public distribution system. They then sell this at a premium in the market, the petitioner, who is also President of Bhrashtachar Virodhi Janandolan Nyas, said.
Bhagwan Sahai, Principal Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra, filed an affidavit saying a committee had been set up to look into the issues raised by the PIL. A report filed by the committee had been accepted by Commissioner (Supply), Pune.
As the department does not have machinery to check the veracity of information given by an applicant for a ration card on income, only the evidence about residence is verified, and the ration card is issued thereafter, the affidavit said.
It is difficult to fix responsibility on the staff for ineligible ration cards detected due to this procedure. In spite of this, instructions have been issued to district collectors and Controller of Rationing in Mumbai and Thane to take action against staff found issuing bogus ration cards, the affidavit said.