Amid a rush to weed out ineligible beneficiaries availing of highly subsidised rice and wheat, all States and Union Territories (UTs) have cancelled 4.5 crore ration cards in last eight years since 2014. However, it has not reduced the offtake of grains since as many numbers also get added – currently 19.5 crore ration cards in operation covering about 80 crore population under National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Several States have separate exclusion criteria under which they delete/cancel ration cards of ineligible persons and there is no particular Central government norms on exclusion, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said. About 4.75 crore ration cards got deleted during 2013-21, of which maximum 1.74 crore were in Uttar Pradesh, official data show. About 20 lakh cards were cancelled in 2013.

Linking with Aadhaar

“Cancellation of ration cards is an on-going process and special emphasis has been given for this after the NFSA got implemented from 2013. With technology available and seeded with Aadhaar, all duplicate ration cards could be easily weeded out from the system,” an official said. As many as 19.33 crore ration cards are now seeded with Aadhaar.

Deletion of ration cards is manly due to detection of ineligible ration cards, migration/deaths of beneficiaries and also partly due to the digitisation process in which these got seeded with Aadhaar, the official said.

In three years between 2011 and 2013, 1.5 crore ration cards got deleted by States, of which a maximum of 67 lakh were from Karnataka, where the cancellation has come down to about 10 lakh during last eight years (2014-21).

In Uttar Pradesh, less than 40,000 ration cards were deleted in three years 2011-13, while the cancellation was 1.74 crore from 2014 to 2021. The State government, had in April, issued notices to the public to surrender their ration cards in seven days if any of the beneficiaries is either an income tax payee, or having a four-wheeler/tractor/harvester, or more than five acres of irrigated land in possession of any family member, or having a generator of 5 kv. Even those having more than one armed licences in the family have been made ineligible to possess ration card.

“The State government had warned those ineligible ration card holders to surrender these cards, falling which recovery will be initiated at ₹24/kg for wheat and ₹32/kg for rice for the amount drawn from ration shops,” the official said.

Bogus cards

Between July 2006 and March 2014, 30 States/UTs had reported deletion of 3.93 crore bogus/ineligible ration cards, the then Minister of State for food and public distribution Raosaheb Patil Danve had said in Lok Sabha in July 2014. The ministerhad said: “the exercise of deletion of bogus/ineligible cards and inclusion of eligible families is a continuous process and State Governments/UT Administrations are to periodically carry out the same.”

The Centre’s foodgrains allocation to States under NFSA increased to 522.27 lakh tonnes in 2021-22 from 521.26 lakh tonnes in 2020-21.