Three held for diverting food meant for poor in Lucknow

The Special Task Force (STF) Sunday arrested three persons for their alleged involvement in large-scale misuse of Aadhaar to divert grains meant for the poor through the Public Distribution Service (PDS) system.

Those arrested were identified as Lucknow ration shop owner Mohammad Amir Khan, his brother Mohammad Altamash and Mainpuri resident Pushpendra Pal. In Augu st, the food and civil supplies department had registered 22 FIRs after an inquiry exposed the alleged fraud. The FIRs were lodged against fair price shop owners and others allegedly involved in replacing Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries with those of impostors to divert ration, in eight districts.

STF officials said over 1.8 lakh fraudulent transactions of food grains with market value of more than Rs 20 crore were made from May to July this year. According to information provided by the food and civil supplies department to The Indian Express last month, the Aadhaar numbers of genuine beneficiaries were replaced in 43 districts and 950 fair price shops were found to be involved. The department had then formed 99 teams to probe the matter.

“After the matter came to light, the investigation was handed over to the STF on September 4. During investigation, we got details of transactions in which a single Aadhaar number was used to take out ration more than once a month. The number was updated before and after the transactions. We then found that some of the Aadhaar numbers were used many times at a single shop, some many times in different shops, and some even in different districts,” STF Inspector General (IG) Amitabh Yash told the media.

“After following the data, we arrested these three and during questioning they told us that different ration card sellers would take their e-pass machines to one place and use the ID and password of their operator or supply officer to login at the ration card management system website. There they would change the Aadhaar number of a beneficiary with the Aadhaar of someone present there physically, make the transaction using the thumb print of that person, and then change the Aadhaar number to the original one,” he added.

Asked if operators and district supply officers are also involved in the fraud, STF Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Abhishek Singh said that as their IDs and passwords were used in all these transactions, they either were involved or were guilty of negligence. He added that the three had been booked under IPC sections for cheating and dishonesty including delivery of property, forgery of valuable security and others and relevant sections of the IT Act.

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