Kerosene worth Rs 27 crore meant for the public distribution system (PDS) is being sold in the black market every month due to proliferation of ghost ration cards, Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriya Mullick has said.
However, the recovery of the fake ration cards by the food and supplies department is being held up by numerous court cases, Mullick added.
“There are 481 court cases on kerosene oil leakage and fake cards. Dishonest kerosene dealers move courts alleging harassment when the food and supplies department inspectors conduct raids to recover fake cards. Strangely, in several cases, lawyers appointed by the state government in the previous regime either did not attend the hearing or fought the legal battle carelessly. We have lost 92 cases. We are going to file appeals in the high court in the cases that we lost,” Mullick said.
According to department officials, oil dealers lift kerosene at Rs 13.82 per litre and sell it through PDS at Rs 16 per litre. “The state government provides subsidy of Rs 3 on every litre of kerosene while the Centre’s subsidy per litre stands at Rs 19. In the open market one litre of kerosene sells at anything between Rs 40-48,” an official said.
Mullick said the department suspects that there are around 72 lakh fake ration cards operating in the state. Forty lakh such cards have been recovered due to concerted attempts of the state government. “Raids are being conducted to recover the fake cards but the racket is so strong that we need to take cautious steps to make the drive fruitful,” he said.
Asked about the steps taken to stop leakage of kerosene oil, the minister said changes will be brought in the 2003 control order. However, he refused to share details about the proposed changes. “If we make it to public, the dishonest dealers will move the court,” he said.
A kerosene dealer said that the present system in which PDS operates forces a section of dealers to sell ration items in the open market. “We lift one litre of kerosene at Rs 13.82 but the government does not provide dealers with transportation charges, which are soaring every month. According to my estimate a ration dealer pays 25 paisa transport charge per litre of kerosene. If the government increases the price of kerosene at PDS and provides transport charges to the dealers, the leakage will easily