Thiruvananthapuram: The Civil Supplies department has suspended the licences of 44 ration shops in Kerala after major irregularities were found in the free ration distribution in the state during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Unlawful activities included cross-selling rice and distributing rice even in the names of deceased people.
A total of 3,032 shops in the state were found to have been involved in irregularities, according to sources.
The district-wise tally of shops that were suspended: Thiruvananthapuram - 11, Kollam - 4, Pathanamthitta - 2, Alappuzha - 5, Kottayam - 1, Idukki - 6, Ernakulam - 2, Thrissur - 7, Palakkad - 1, Malappuram - 2, Kozhikode - 2, and Kannur - 1. No shops were suspended in Kasaragod and Wayanad districts.
The Kerala government had claimed a record 97 per cent free ration distribution in the state. However, the Union government raised suspicion over the record numbers and the rice distribution was put under strict surveillance.
The EPOS fingerprint verification of the card owners was scrapped during March, leading to the irregularities. The fingerprint authentication will be brought back this month.
'Say no to food kits'
The Food and Civil Supplies department has initiated a campaign to motivate card owners in the non-priority list to voluntarily give up on the free food kits.
Around 51 lakh food kits are needed for the blue and white ration card holders. The department aims to encourage people to forsake their kits for the needy.
Less than 5,000 people in the non-priority list have forsaken their kits so far. Consumers can do so by hitting the ‘Donate my kit’ link on the website www.civilsupplieskerala.gov.in.
Earlier, the consumers had the option to SMS the ration card number to a specific phone number. However, some people informed the department that they had accidentally sent the SMS. Then the department came up with the ‘Donate my kit’ option on the website.
The food kits for pink ration card holders are being distributed now. The distribution of food kits for the blue ration card owners is likely to begin next week and then for the white card owners.