The Open Market Sale (OMS) programme that is purported to catering to the needs of low-income groups, is in a terrible shape. The items on sale at subsidised prices are making themselves to the black market easily and rampantly. Slack or absence of monitoring lies at the root of this misdeed. The nexus between the dealers and the respective government department is widely considered to be responsible for rendering the programme a colossal waste - in the name of public good. Reports of utter mismanagement and machination of the vested quarters make it plain that this programme - orphaned by the absence of proper overseeing - is anything but pro-poor.
The situation this year is nothing unique; as in every year, it is the same irregularities that get repeated. Reports have it that it is the OMS dealers who run havoc in connivance with a section of the food department officials. Thus, the abuse of the system that otherwise could have provided some respite to the poor in times of unaffordable price spiral of essentials like rice and flour, is now being witnessed, unfailingly. There are complaints of limited-hour sale of OMS items, often reduced to one-to-two hours from what should have been an eight-hour-long daily activity. Meant to discourage people from gathering at the selling points for the subsidised items - mainly rice, the dealers resort to many ploys, apparently not beyond the knowledge of the food officials. On their part, food department officials refuse to shoulder the blame and ascribe the gap in monitoring to dearth of manpower. But observers tend to take a harsh view and put the responsibility, including that of the misdeeds, on the food department for ruining a beneficial programme.
As a social security system, OMS merits to be acknowledged as a proactive and pro-poor programme in so far as its purpose and design are concerned. Since March, around 650 OMS outlets reportedly started operation across the country, selling coarse varieties of rice, and flour. Each person is entitled to buy 5.0 kgs of rice or 5.0 kgs of flour or both. And an OMS dealer gets one tonne of rice and two tonnes of flour from the government's food department daily. The country with its hard-earned resources can ill-afford a single grain of OMS rice to be wasted. But the way things have turned makes the system plagued with corruption. No doubt, irregularities and misdeeds in the OMS system pose a challenge for the government in achieving its goal of food security for all.
Given that OMS has strong reasons to stay because of the purpose it was designed to serve, the government must work out an effective method so that only the poor and the needy are benefited from the system. While this remains the prime concern, the other is how best to run and monitor it. Blaming the OMS is not new, and like some other social safety net programmes, it is supposed to be under tight scanner. But the ground reality does not at all attest to such vigil.
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