Shimla: With the provisional 2011 census data recording the stateâ€™s population at 68.56 lakhs but the food department providing subsidized food items to an estimated population of 74 lakhs has left inspectors scouting for about 1 lakh fake ration cards in Himachal.
â€œEnrolled under the public distribution scheme (PDS) there are 16,11,410 ration card holders in the state, which makes for a total population of over 74 lakhs,â€ says Amar Singh Rathore, director food, civil supply and consumer affairs.
But with the provisional census data released showing a population of 68,56,509 certainly there are more cards holders registered with the food department than there should be, he adds.
â€œFor the about 5.5 lakh extra people registered under the PDS scheme, it is estimated that there are over 1 lakh fake or duplicate ration cards issued out,â€ says RK Shad, principal advisor planning.
â€œTo reconcile the figures, we have written to deputy commissioners in the districts for doing a cross check of all the ration card holders,â€ adds Rathore.
For a state government scheme of providing subsidized food items to all ration card holders a budget provision of Rs 100 crore for 2011-12 has been kept aside but the government is banking upon the centrally sponsored biometric UID project to weed out fake card holders and reduce the subsidy burden.
â€œIn 2010-11, the government spent Rs 130 crore on the food subsidy scheme, under which a monthly quota of 3 pulses, edible oil and salt is provided at reduced rates,â€ said the food director.
â€œIt is only after the full residing population in the state gets registered under UID, will we be able to remove the duplicate or fake ration card holders,â€ says Shad.
Meanwhile the biometric registration under UID has picked up in some districts and is nearing completion in Una district.
â€œThe UID project is already being linked to the PDS scheme for containing pilferages,â€ said an officer from information technology department which is the nodal agency for executing the UID program.
Once the registration is complete, a UID linked ration card would be issued afresh to all beneficiaries and only on biometric identification would one be able to access the PDS system.
â€œWhere an internet connection is available, the biometric verification would be an online process and for offline identification, the biometric data would be stored on computers at the PDS disbursing centre,â€ said the IT official.