Lok Sabha elections might have never happened, and the state’s ruling coalition may never have got its worst drubbing. That is the way the pompously-named Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) department functions in Kashmir. Lordly, arbitrary and regally slow. How does it matter if the underprivileged often return downcast from ration depots. If Marie Antoinette has mureeds in the 21st century, the ministers, bureaucrats and minions handling the CAPD must certainly belong to the tribe.
Six months have passed since angry protests rocked many parts of Kashmir because of empty ration depots, highly irregular supplies, and a suspected nexus between CAPD officials and black-marketers. Assurances solemnly given to streamline the system have been forgotten, first drowned in the non-existent din of poll campaigning, and then famously attributed to the election code of conduct. Shortages have never had such democratic causes, but now that Kashmir has got over its fit of franchise, people wonder why the CAPD has not come out of its seizure.
The Department has failed to ensure proper stocks at its outlets on time, and CAPD authorities, it has been reliably learnt, are deliberately delaying supplies to distribution ghats.
Depots invariably receive essentials during the last dates of the month, depriving most ration-card holders of their due. And needless to say, the leftovers (some leftovers these) are then sold in the black market. Despite many allegations of this unwholesome practice, and despite several supplies scandals having been exposed, the government continues to remain its usual inert, lifeless self.
What irks consumers the most and led to severe public resentment is that authorities have failed to take action against erring officials and
deport-holders. The consumers suspect a nexus between the depot
holders and CAPD that often works by near-end-of-the-month delivery at authorized depots, and the ensuing rush of consumers that cannot be entertained within two or three days. Consumers also allege misbehavior by depot-holders who often proffer the excuse that supplies have not arrived, particularly in case of sugar and kerosene.
Public demands are growing for a high-level probe into CAPD operations and exemplary punishment for erring officials. Streamlining the public distribution system is long overdue.