Consider income declaration, not certificate for new ration cards: Activists tell Telangana CM

The process of applications for issuing new ration cards in Telangana is said to begin from 28 December — the day when Praja Palana programme commences.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Dec 27, 2023 | 4:42 PMUpdatedDec 27, 2023 | 4:42 PM

Residents lining up at a fair price shop to avail the subsidised food.

Several civil society groups and rights activists wrote to Telangana Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy and Minister of Food and Civil Supplies Uttam Kumar Reddy, on Tuesday, 26 December, asking the government to consider income declarations when issuing new ration cards.

The activists urged the state government to streamline the application process to protect applicants from exploitation and harassment. They proposed eliminating the mandatory requirement for an “income certificate” at the time of submission of the application.

They commended the state government’s efforts to accept applications for issuing new ration cards, scheduled to commence on 28 December — the day when the Praja Palana programme begins.

However, the members raised some concerns and suggestions to ensure food security for citizens of Telangana belonging to marginalised groups.

The public participatory Praja Palana programme is a flagship initiative of the newly-elected Congress government. It will continue until 6 January.

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What are their concerns? 

The activists claimed that many applicants faced challenges in obtaining income certificates during the previous Telangana government’s call for new ration card applications.

“They (citizens) spent considerable time and money, falling victim to exploitation by middlemen and brokers. Thousands of applications, despite the submission of income certificates, were rejected using the ‘360-degree software’ without conducting field-level inquiries, and no clear written reasons were provided for rejection,” stated the members in the letter.

The members added that several “eligible ration cards” were canceled due to beneficiaries owning four-wheeler vehicles.

“This led to the exclusion of people who possessed cars, either through government assistance in livelihood support programmes or through private or bank financing. As a result, those who availed themselves of such support or purchased vehicles through financial assistance found themselves deprived of access to ration cards,” they added.

They highlighted that eligible applicants were denied the basic, as well as statutory, right to food under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Meanwhile, Mir Zulfiqar Ali, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (AIMIM) MLA from Charminar, appealed to the public to apply for an income certificate ahead of the application process.

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List of suggestions

The civil society group members suggested that local officers assess eligibility based on guidelines through field-level inquiries instead of demanding income certificates.

They proposed that the government establish clear guidelines and a timeline for the application review process, taking into account that “economically poor applicants” may frequently alter contact numbers and addresses.

The members asked the government to direct officials to provide detailed reasons for application rejections. “It should be communicated to the applicants through official proceedings, SMS, an online portal, or other means that can be used to file an appeal,” they said.

Here are other points the activists listed to be addressed:

  • Provision for filing appeals in cases of wrongful rejection of applications.
  • Publicise all official communications, orders, and guidelines and make them accessible to the public through an online portal with English, Telugu, and Urdu as languages of communication.
  • Form district and state-level monitoring committees comprising the District Collector, local MLAs, representatives from Gram Panchayats, Municipality, and members of civil society/NGOs for effective follow-up.
  • Provide an opportunity for the addition of family members who are not registered in the card. Ration cards should be given to all those who are eligible across the state within three months, with approval within 15 days of application.

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