A few months after the launch of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in the State, the public distribution system (PDS) authorities have quietly begun a “give it up” drive, covering all the essential commodities that are being provided at heavily subsidised rates.
Though there is no formal announcement regarding the drive, any PDS beneficiary can give up all the commodities permanently or block them for a specified period by visiting the website (https://tnpds.com). One can open an online account, by registering with the website the details such as number of ration card, mobile phone, and Aadhaar. Aimed at about 1.91-crore rice-drawing cards, the “give it up” option covers not only rice, sugar, toor dhal, urad dhal and wheat but also the Pongal gift pack.
Meanwhile, since November [when the Act came into force] there have been complaints of non-availability of rice or irregular supply of rice, even though officials in charge of fair price shops (FPS) are bound under the NFSA to ensure the provision of five kg of rice per month per person. The policy of the State government is supply rice free of cost. A housewife, whose card is with a FPS in Kamarajapuram, near Tambaram, says, “If you do not visit your shop within the first week, you will not get any thing from the ration.” Pointing out that there is no such government rule, T. Sadagopan, president of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Consumers’ Centre, says that if and when rice is available, FPS officials would ordinarily give greater quantity of boiled rice than raw rice. A beneficiary, attached to FPS in Ram Nagar, Velachery, says even though his card has four members, he is being given only 15 kg rice against his quota of 20 kg as per the law. Besides, out of the 15 kg, the quantity of raw rice is five kg. There are also complaints that those who have not obtained any commodity have received messages on their mobile phones that billing has been done against their cards.
The government, early this month, issued an order allowing the rice cardholders to get certain amount of wheat free of cost in lieu of rice. This has been done as the allocation of wheat for the State is 1.62 lakh tonnes out of the total annual allocation of 36.78 lakh tonnes, according to the government order. A senior official in the Food Department says the “give it up” drive has been prepared mainly to address the problem of bogus billing. On receiving the complaints of bogus billing, the officials of the shops have been “strictly warned.” Several punishment measures are being contemplated, he says, adding that people can send complaints of bogus billing to 9980904040 by typing PDS (space) 107.
Another official says the concept of “no commodity” cards has been in vogue for many years. As for the complaints on non-availability of rice or irregular supply of rice, a system is in place to monitor the movement of rice. “Wherever rice is required, we are moving the stock,” the official says.