Bangalore: Over the years, India has seen a criminal waste of food grains, but now the Karnataka food department is trying to ensure that doesn't happen any more. They now have a monitoring system in place.
For a central Bangalore resident, Kausar Banu, there is renewed curiosity as she makes her monthly trips to the ration shop. "The computer says what we're taking," she says.
A few months ago, the food department installed 1,000 point-of-sale machines that recognise thumb prints, announce the weight of grain, and give out the bill. They also send out a message to the central server about supplies disbursed. And by the year-end, these machines will cover all 20,000 shops. People are learning to trust these gadgets.
Back in his office, the department head Harish Gowda has at his finger-tips the stock-positions of foodgrain at each godown and ration shop. He can click on random ration cards of villagers, find that there are three issued to the same address, and weed out bogus ones.
"We were able to cancel 15 lakh LPG connections and about 50 lakh ration cards. They were no doubt issued by authorised persons, but where families didn't exist. If a fair price shop had 100 ineligible ration cards at the rate of 7 litres of kerosene per card, he could get 700 litres of petrol per month," Gowda said.
When he realised that huge supplies were getting diverted to the black market two years ago, Gowda began the process of mapping and matching every consumer's data-base. Every family member's finger prints and photographs are taken and every card is foolproof. The pain-staking process has now covered nearly 80 per cent of the 1.3 crore families and is a process that other states are readying to copy soon.
It is a process that is ultimately aimed at ensuring no poor person goes to bed on a hungry stomach in the state and also the first step to prove perhaps that people don't need more freebies or more subsidies. All they need is what's promised to reaches them efficiently.