RAJEEV RAVIDAS, TT, Kalimpong, Aug. 2: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung today urged the hill residents to return the Antyodaya Anna Yojana ration cards, saying the scheme was a sinister attempt by the state government to undermine the demand for Gorkhaland.
Rice and wheat are given to financially backward families at subsidised rates under the scheme.
Gurung told the media in Darjeeling that the people should see through the designs of the state government and totally reject the AAY scheme. “The distribution of the AAY cards is nothing but a conspiracy on the part of the state government to show that the people in the hills are refugees and gypsies without a land of their own. This is a sinister bid to undermine the demand for Gorkhaland,” he said.
The AAY was introduced by the NDA government under prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2000.
Families having AAY cards are given rice at Rs 3 per kg and wheat at Rs 2 per kg. The scheme initially targeted the five per cent of the population who couldn’t have two square meals a day. It now also covers BPL households headed by widows, terminally ill persons, disabled persons or persons aged above 60 years without assured means of subsistence or societal support.
The identification of AAY families and issuing the distinctive ration cards is the responsibility of the state government.
In the hills, though, the entire population has been brought under the scheme. “(The) entire population has been treated as AAY considering various criteria primarily that the hills don’t produce food grains and almost entire population has to buy food grains from that brought from outside. Due to this, prices are somewhat higher than they are outside. More than 80 per cent ration cards have been distributed and allocation will be based on these cards only,” said Anurag Srivastava, the Darjeeling district magistrate.
Srivastava also said the hills were flooded with bogus ration cards and henceforth, only the digital cards would be entertained. 
The DM stressed that those who didn’t want to lift ration could forgo it, but old cards would not be used in any case. On widespread complaints that the digital cards had lot of errors, he said a robust mechanism was in place “to correct any erroneous data or change/correct ration dealer and this is being done within 15 days of application”.