Mira Bhayandar: A day after Shiv-Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik made a surprise visit to the rationing office in Bhayandar, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal have ordered independent probes into alleged malpractices and massive corruption prevailing in the office.
Alarmed over the increasing number of complaints received from citizens against brazen corruption and the presence of touts, Sarnaik made a surprise visit to the rationing office located below the fly-over bridge connecting the east and west sides of Bhayandar on Monday.
Corruption at ration office
The lone establishment that caters to the needs of nearly two lakh citizens in the twin-city, the rationing office (41F), mainly takes up works such as issuing new ration cards, deletion and addition of names, and making changes in existing cards. Besides, it keeps control over the fair price shops (FPS) to ensure effective distribution of quality food grains and other commodities under the public distribution system (PDS). However, it has been alleged that on-duty staffers harass citizens, make them wait endlessly, force them to make repeated visits, and give indications that bribing hastens the procedure.
"I have been receiving several complaints regarding the prevailing malpractices and brazen presence of middlemen in the ration office. During my surprise visit, officials failed to give satisfactory replies to questions posed about the ongoing anomalies. While perfectly legitimate applicants were kept on hold, touts facilitated cards by charging anywhere between ₹5,000 to ₹10,000," said Sarnaik, who sought the intervention of the chief minister to probe the matter and suspend the rationing officer and the assistant rationing officer.
Manpower at office
There are around 80,000 orange cardholders, followed by 50,000 and 1,300 white and yellow cardholders registered with the ration office, which operates with a staff strength of 20 employees, including rationing officer, assistant rationing officer, inspectors, and data entry operators. The office dispenses an average of ten new ration cards on a daily basis. Apart from prevailing anomalies in ration card-related work, Sarnaik also highlighted the issue of substandard quality of food grains being supplied by the FPS.
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