Bengaluru: As many as 362 fair price shops have stopped functioning in the city and no applications have been received to start new ones in the past seven months.
While many owners closed down voluntarily, the government downed shutters on shops which were catering to less than 300 card-holders.
Food and Civil Supplies Department secretary Harsha Gupta said they had reorganised the number of shops based on the number of card-holders they catered to. Shops which had more than the specified number of card-holders were bifurcated. He said the number of shops have come down as the department cancelled separate licences issued to kerosene stores and clubbed such stores with fair price shops.
Shopkeepers say they shut shop because selling only rice and dal was not profitable to them. “Wages for labourers who load and unload the foodgrains are increasing. Ration distribution is leading to increasing debts for us,” the owner of a fair price shop said.
Owners are expected to update information through IVRS system once they distribute the foodgrains. Many are not familiar with online transactions and are dependent on others to update the system. A food inspector said many owners who found it difficult to operate online also closed down their shops.
Moreover, there are talks of introducing direct benefit transfer system, by which the funds will be directly transferred to the beneficiaries’ accounts, instead of providing them supplies.
The department has cancelled licences of about 150 shops. However, owners of these shops have got a stay from the court and are operating. “We have closed shops that had between 150 and 200 cards. We have transferred the cards of such shops to nearby outlets. Retaining shops that have fewer card-holders is not viable commercially,” Gupta said.
He said owners who had bagged tenders are finding it difficult to supply rice and dal at the rates they had quoted. Hence, the supply is affected. The department will supply dal from next month, he said.