RTI query helps unearth fair price shop scam

Two ration shop licenses in one family and in same premises. Sounds unbelievable as the rules of the public distribution system (PDS) commonly known as the rationing system do not allow that. But the two shops have been operating for over a decade in Dharavi.

Thanks to an alert citizen Harsh Mehta has brought the fraudulent activity to the fore by seeking the information under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

Following Mehta’s RTI query, rationing controller RR Jadhav ordered a probe. Jadhav, who is in Gujarat on the poll duty, refused to give much details. But, when this correspondent contacted deputy collector NM Suryavanshi, who conducted the probe, the latter said the report had been submitted to Jadhav on Monday.

The discrepancy was revealed when landlord Mehta sought the information about how two ration shop licences were allotted in the same premises. “We filed an FIR in August 2007 with the Dharavi police and now the rationing department has found merit in our complaints,” said Mehta’s advocate Indra Sajnani.

The RTI query revealed that while one license has been sanctioned to Suresh Shivkumar Gupta, the photograph affixed on the license application was of Sonu aka Dilip Rajkumar Gupta.

While in the case of the second license the documents attached as rent receipts are of Rajkumar Gupta, the father of Sonu. Sonu aka Dilip Rajkumar Gupta and Rajkumar Gupta are staying in the Parsi Chawl in the much talked about slums. “The documents were bogus and forged,” alleged Mehta.

The two shops get 20,000 litres of kerosene a month to be sold to card holders at Rs8 per litre. The Guptas got their applications authenticated in 1997 from local Shiv Sena MLA Baburao Mane, in whose constituency the area falls, Mehta said.

Denying that the licenses for the two PDS units were obtained on bogus documents, Sonu told DNA: “A wrong photograph was submitted to the rationing authority by mistake.

Photographs with the department were destroyed in the 2005 deluge and we were asked to submit fresh ones. Instead of my cousin Suresh Gupta’s photo, mine got submitted due to an oversight. We have written to the department asking them to rectify this mistake.”

In fact, Sonu alleged that Mehta was trying to pressurise them through such complaints as he wanted to redevelop the property.

A senior rationing official confirmed to DNA that the report sought strict and immediate action against two PDS outlets. He also admitted that a simple verification of the site and document details from the landlord could have averted the goof up.

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