The Food, Civil Supplies Department of Karnataka has almost 2 lakh applications for BPL ration cards pending in Bangalore alone this year. This delay has left the poor in the lurch.
Thippiah, a slum dweller from LB Shastri Nagar says, “We have been living here since ten years. We have got our voter ID cards but we are not being issued ration cards. We have applied so many times.”
The slum dwellers are hardly left with any money after buying their monthly groceries. They are eligible for rice at one rupee a kilo but end up paying much more for it. Without the BPL card these people are not entitled to many other schemes including the Bhagyalakshmi scheme. The scheme was announced by the Karnataka government in 2006 in which the Government has to remit Rs. 10,000 with LIC soon after a newborn girl is registered from a BPL family.
Nirmala Urkundu, another slum dweller from the same area says, “I didn’t get the benefit of Bhagyalakshmi scheme when my daughter was born three years ago. When asked, they said without a voter ID card or ration card, we can’t do anything for you. ”
Another kind of problem related to these cards persists in various parts of Bangalore. Slum dwellers of Roshan Nagar and Frazer Town have their BPL cards but they are of no use because only cards issued with online applications are valid now. And they haven’t been able to renew their cards for a while.
Jessi Kumar, a slum dweller from the Ambedkar Huts in Frazer Town says, “I applied for the new BPL card but it has been more than six months now and I still haven’t received my card. Previously I used to get kerosene, so I used to prepare food on the stove. But now I have to collect wood and cook food on it because nobody is giving us kerosene without the card.”
Officers say it will take time to process the pending applications and blame the building of online software for this delay. When the online software was being built, the officers were supposedly not able to do any work and the applications kept piling up.
Sowmya, Assistant Director of the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department of Karnataka says, “It will take some time because spot inspection for BPL cards is mandatory. But we have taken a special drive for the completion of this process. We have included the revenue department staff and municipal staff as only the food department staff will not be enough for so many applications. So within two or three months we’ll complete this process.” She further added, “But LB Shastri Nagar slum dwellers not receiving their BPL cards since 10 years is very strange. They should’ve got it. I don’t know why applications are pending since so long in that area.”
When Somashekhar, Managing Trustee of Grahaka Shakti, an NGO working for empowerment of consumers, was contacted, he said that the problem lies in the huge scale of subsidy for BPL cards. He said slum dwellers are not aware of their rights because of which stocks meant for them are diverted. He claimed that the department is plagued with massive amount of corruption.