The idea behind issuing poverty identity cards is to enable the people falling below the poverty line (those earning less than Rs 20,000 per year) to access to basic needs such as education, health, transportation and food among others. The cardholders are entitled to receive discounts on education, health facilities, transportation and foodstuffs. In a country where around 25.2 percent of people live below the poverty line, this scheme was envisaged to improve their living standards. Shockingly, however, it has been revealed that government officials, those with access to power centers and people from well-off families have acquired such cards meant for those people living below poverty line. This is a clear case of abuse of authority by those in power and the government must deal with this case as such. The idea of supporting the poor has been misused so much so that landlords, government officials, professionals and even former ministers have enlisted themselves in the list with a view to milk the state coffers. The scheme of bringing the people from poverty and disadvantaged section to the mainstream of the development process has been misused to serve the rich and powerful.
Those from well-off families, who have acquired the poverty ID cards, have deceived not only the surveyors but also to state bodies. By doing so they have misused the money meant for poor people. Elected local representatives such as mayors and ward members and local officials have admitted serious negligence in distribution of such ID cards. This practice must be stopped. We find similar situation in other programs as well. Reservation seats meant for women, poor, dalits, people with physical disability, marginalized communities and backward areas have been grabbed by those with access to power centers. Also, provisions of Proportional Representation (PR) seats allocated in parliament and other bodies have been exploited by well-off families leaving the marginalized and the poor at the fringe.
The misuse of poverty identity cards is an example of the extent to which our officials, in collusion with politicians in power, go on to abuse power and misuse state resources. Such cases of misuse of power have occurred repeatedly but in lack of strong action to hold the guilty to the book, the tendency will continue to rise. This will have grave consequences. First, the targeted people won’t benefit from the policies and programs meant for them. Second, the idea itself becomes unpopular over time. It will invite huge public dissent and the state will completely lose credibility. And the best policies and programs, initiated with the best of intentions, fail. The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority should immediately look into this case and bring the guilty to book. Those who enlisted themselves as poor receive state entitlements and deprive the needy ones of the benefits the state has reserved for them exclusively.