Bihar to videotape PDS coupon distribution to fight corruption

In a unique move to curb corruption in the PDS system, the Bihar government will for the first time hold camps and video-record entire process of coupon distribution for 1.45 crore BPL families. The camps will be held at panchayat and block levels from June 1 to June 15. There is an instruction in place to sack any errant official right on-the-spot "without being served usual show-cause notice".

The government believes video-recording will work like CCTV cameras at bank ATMs and its video-grab can be referred to ensure veracity of a ration card holder.

The Food and Civil Supplies Ministry accepted that the camps were being held amidst rampant allegations of PDS coupon sale, right from block development officers to marketing officers to dealers and panchayat sevaks. Earlier, marketing officers would hand over ration coupons to dealers and panchayat sevaks for sale. The coupons for the entire year are sold sometime in May-June every year.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Bihar Food and Civil Supplies Minister Shyam Rajak said, "The most common complaint from people is about not getting the coupons. We are determined to stop illegal sale right at the distribution level."

The minister said the coupons, bar-coded from this time to help avoid duplicity, would be distributed at block and panchayat levels involving down-level village workers like tola sevaks, vikas mitras and panchayat sevaks. "The process will be duly advertised well in advance. Every ration card holder having photographs of entire family on the card will produce his/ her card before receiving the PDS coupons for the entire year by signing or putting thumb impression on government registers," said Rajak adding that video-cameras will focus mainly on distributors and coupon recipients and work like CCTV cameras at bank ATMs.

There will be also surprise checks by BDOs, district supply officers and other senior officials of Food and Civil Supplies departments at camps, added the minister. Rajak claimed that no other state had so far even held camps, let alone video-record the process, to distribute PDS coupons.

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