Kannur: Ration card-holders who rushed to ration shops to buy Onam special food items after receiving alert text messages from the Civil Supplies department had to return disappointed as stocks were not available. Card-holders and shop employees entered into heated exchanges in several places.
Indications are that the crisis was sparked by lack of adequate supply of stocks to ration shops. There were lapses in Supplyco distribution too.
The text messages were sent to mobile phone numbers submitted at the time of renewing the ration cards. This was the first time that the Civil Supplies department used this method to inform card-holders about ration distribution.
Sugar distribution was extended up to 16th, but that was not conveyed in the messages. No decision has been taken on extending rice distribution though demands have been raised for that.
Confrontation between card-holders and ration shop employees was reported from all 14 districts. As things worsened, ration shops which did not have stocks shuttered as directed by their association.
The Kottayam district supply officer has charged a case against a ration shop owner who had hoarded nine sacks of rice.
The text message
Five kilograms of rice, wheat and atta will be distributed through your ration shop at the current rates and a kilo of sugar at Rs22. These have to be purchased on or before Sept.03.
A statement from the office of the minister of food:
District supply officers have reported that ration items have reached all outlets. Inquiries will be made to check if anyone is hoarding ration items and claiming they are not available.
Note from Mohammed Hanish, CMD, Supplyco:
The message was sent because special ration distribution was closing. Stocks got exhausted as the 10-day long distribution reached its final day.
All Kerala Retail Ration Dealers Association state secretary T. Mohammed Ali says:
Stocks for Onam distribution were not made available to the shops. We were told to add leftover stocks from earlier supplies to Onam special ration. But most of the outlets did not have leftover stocks. Half of the shops could not at all distribute sugar.
Kerala State Ration Dealers Association state president Musa Haji Kadampuzha says:
The government should refrain from inciting people against rations shops. Enough stocks should be provided.