Coimbatore: With just 10 days to go for the distribution of Pongal gift hampers that the state government announced, fair price shops in the district have started distributing tokens to the cardholders on Saturday.
Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had inaugurated the scheme recently. At least 10.09 lakh cardholders would receive the gift hampers, which comprise Rs 2,500, 1kg sugar and rice, one large sugarcane stick, 20g of cashew nuts and raisins, and 5g cardamom, in the district.
An official with the office of district supply officer said the distribution of gift hampers would commence on January 4. “To avoid crowds in front of ration shops, we have started distributing tokens to cardholders at their doorsteps. Only 200 beneficiaries – 100 in the morning and another 100 in the evening – would be allowed in a day.”
He said the tokens would be distributed till Wednesday (December 30). “If people fail to collect the gift hampers on the allocated date, they could get it from the ration shops on January 13.”
Pointing out that the gift hampers would be distributed only to rice cardholders, the official said 10.09 lakh of the 10.47 lakh cardholders in the district would benefit from the scheme.
In an interview to a news channel, food minister R Kamaraj had unveiled the government’s plans to distribute the Pongal gift hampers by swiping the smart ration cards, instead of employing the biometric system. According to him, cardholders could get the hampers only from the ration shops that they are registered with.
Officials, however, said they had not received any notification from the government regarding swiping the card for gift hamper distribution so far.
While the tokens are distributed by ration shop workers at most of the places in the district, there are complaints that members of the ruling AIADMK are distributing the same in a few places after collecting them from ration shops.
A source with the district administration said they had instructed the ration shop workers to distribute the tokens on their own at the beneficiaries’ doorsteps and not to hand them over to others.
G Rajendran, state president of Tami Nadu Ration Shop Employees’ Union, lauded the government’s decision not to distribute the gift hampers through biometric process, which he said was time consuming. “There is also delay in reading the fingerprints of some people, especially the elderly.”
He also called on the officials to upgrade the software to minimize the waiting time. “It will be better if they replace the 2G/3G sim cards with 4G cards. It will help minimize the network issues.”