Arrest ineligible ration card holders, govt tells SPs

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government today directed the district collectors to initiate exemplary action against undeserving ration card beneficiaries and asked the SPs to register FIR and arrest them if they do not surrender the ration card by 31st of this month.

Briefing media persons after a high-level review meeting presided over by chief secretary Aditya Padhi at the State Secretariat here, secretary, Food Supply and Consumer Welfare, Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra said the chief secretary directed the district collectors to identity ineligible beneficiaries and arrest them after registering FIRs against them.

He said following the warning of the state government, an average of about 6500-7000 ineligible beneficiaries are surrendering ration cards every day.

Sources in the department said out of 4911 undeserving beneficiaries against whom the state government has registered FIRs, 225 have been arrested.

“Instructions have been given to the district collectors to submit a final report by July 31 confirming that there are no ineligible beneficiaries in their district,” he said.

Official sources said the state government has cancelled the ration cards of 2.41 lakh ineligible beneficiaries till date. While Khurda district has the maximum number of about 61, 000 ineligible beneficiaries, there are no ineligible beneficiaries in Gajapati district. Apart from this, the state government has collected Rs 6.1 crore from the ineligible beneficiaries as penalty.

But the Opposition parties have criticised the action of the government.

Condemning the arrest of women by the police in Sambalpur and Bolangir districts, BJP National Secretary Suresh Pujari said; “The police cannot arrest any person who has been charged with an offence that invites a jail term of to seven years or less. Instead of arresting the women, police should have served notice to them.”

In his reaction, Leader of Opposition and senior Congress leader Narasingh Mishra said the police should not have arrested the women.

“The state government has the habit of blowing hot and cold in the same breath. On the one hand, the state government says the ration card will be in the name of the mothers to enable them to get the rice at subsidised rate. On the other, the government is keen on sending them to the jail. The chief minister wants to honour the women inside the jail as his government cannot honour them outside the jail,” Mishra observed.

Reacting to the comment of the Opposition, BJD MLA Raseswari Panigrahi said action is being taken by the state government as per the directive of the Supreme Court. “Law is equal for all. The government is taking steps and will take steps in accordance with the law,” she said.