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Locals of Udham Singh Nagar’s Kichha area alleged that they have been duped of over Rs 10 crore during the Covid lockdown from March-end to October through fake ration cards. More than 1,000 fake ration cards allegedly existed in Kichha and under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana’, foodgrains worth over Rs 5.7 crore were distributed on these cards. Coupled with the usual allocation, the fraud was over Rs 10 crore.

The locals approached the Uttarakhand high court (HC) which on Friday issued notices to the Centre and state government along with the district magistrate, district supply officer, and the PDS shop owners directing them to reply in four weeks.

According to one of the petitioners, Nikhlesh Gharami, ration card fraud has been going on for years. Some locals even claimed the fraud has now run into over Rs 100 crore across US Nagar. “Records suggest that since 2017-18 the number of ration cards in all the divisions like Khatima, Jaspur, Bajpur, and others either went down or remained the same. However, in Kichha, 735 new cards have come up under the National Food Security Act and 295 under the Antyodaya Yojana,” said Devesh Upreti, counsel for Gharami in the HC.

Gharami had also written to the district’s chief development officer (CDO) last year after which a three-member committee was formed to probe the matter. According to the probe report, a copy of which is available with TOI, when the panel asked the PDS dealers to turn up with documents, they were informed through a letter that all the papers were lost.

“The team was informed that on November 11, 2020, they were travelling on a motorcycle carrying all the relevant documents. On the way at night the bag fell and could not be found even after looking for it,” the report read.

Gharami and others have accused the district supply officer – the officer charged with ensuring a supply of food grains to the PDS shop – of collusion in the fraud. The CDO-constituted panel said that it could not investigate his role since he did not turn up for questioning and through a letter blamed the junior officers in his department.

“The panel stated that it cannot deny that a fraud has been committed and since a senior official is involved, a thorough probe should be conducted in the case,” Upreti added.