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BPL families told ration cards are not for them
DEBANISH ACHOM  New Delhi | 15th Nov 2010

The food security officer (FSO) of Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area has been marking several “below poverty line” slum dwellers as “above poverty line” and denying them ration cards. In Bhalswa resettlement colony, many labourers and unemployed persons, all of whom earn less than Rs 24,200 a year, have not got ration cards despite several pleas to FSO T.R. Singh of Circle No. 5 of the public distribution system.
Records maintained at Bhalswa community centre showed that 465 families held BPL cards, out of which 293 cards were rejected in June this year.
Over 100 Bhalswa residents have been filing RTI queries to the Jahangirpuri FSO, seeking to know why their ration cards were not being renewed, while some have given up after the FSO did not pay any heed to their pleas.
In 30 randomly-selected RTI replies out of over a hundred documents, copies of which are with The Sunday Guardian, Singh wrote, “The applicant earns more than Rs 24,200 a year, hence the applicant is not eligible for a BPL card.”
Rafifa Khatun, whose application has been rejected, is a widow with no source of income. “I go out every morning in search of trash, collect them and separate some edible parts by evening,” she said. Bhalswa has several cases like hers. But Singh is adamant. “They are not poor. They are very much above the poverty line,” he told The Sunday Guardian.
Maya Devi, a labourer, also got the same reply from the FSO, so did Kailash Wati, another labourer. Ram Kali, Jagdish Singh, Mohammed Sultan, Shiv Pal, Ashanti Khatun, Kailash Wati and many other slum-dwellers, all of whom are jobless and with no proper homes, were told that they earned more than Rs 24,200 a year and hence, were not eligible for BPL cards. Singh refused to disclose whether he had sent any inspection team to find out the extent of poverty before deciding that Bhalswa residents were above poverty line. “We did our duty from our side, that’s all,” he said.
“The food inspector conveniently turned us into APL families overnight without giving any explanation,” said Pushpa, a Bhalswa-based RTI activist, who has filed more than 100 applications on behalf of the slum-dwellers. Another resident, Anwari, whose BPL card was rejected, said the least that Singh could have done was give them a “believable excuse”. “No inspection team has ever visited Bhalswa. Without official backing or at least a proof, the food inspector has been summarily replying to every query saying that we are not poor,” said Anwari. The Central Information Commission, in a stern message to the Jahangirpuri FSO regarding Anwari’s plea, ordered a compensation of Rs 3,000 along with the ration card. “I got the cash but the card has not been issued yet. It seems the FSO is defying even the RTI Commission,” added Anwari.
Jayshree Raghuraman, commissioner with Food Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department, said that cases of the right people not getting BPL cards had happened in many areas because of wrong information provided by the applicants themselves. “We always tell officers to try to correct errors in allotting BPL cards, which takes some time. We will look at what is happening in Bhalswa too,” said Raghuraman. While commenting on the Jahangirpuri FSO, Raghuraman said, “Either he has not sent the inspection team for the relevant period of allotting BPL cards, or he may have wrongly used old data. We will find out.”
Bhalswa resettlement colony was in Circle No. 55 of the PDS before 2010.

 
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