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Page last updated at 08:44 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 09:44 UK

Sania Mirza 'below poverty line'

By Omer Farooq in Hyderabad

Sania Mirza
Sania Mirza is ranked 85 in world women's tennis

Indian tennis star Sania Mirza lives below the poverty line, if government records in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh are to believed.

A special ration card for poor people carrying Mirza's name and photograph has been recovered during investigations, officials say.

The card issued in Vizianagaram district also mentions a local 20-year-old man as her husband.

Mirza, who is one of the top ranking players, is unmarried.

The 22-year-old player, ranked 85 in the world, crashed out of Wimbledon in the second round on Wednesday.

The BPL (Below Poverty Line) ration cards entitles beneficiaries to cheap rice at two rupees (less than 5 cents) a kilogramme, a pension, housing and free health insurance.

Bogus cards

The fraudulent card carrying Mirza's name and photograph was issued in the Vepadu village in Vizianagaram state by the revenue department.

Mirza, who is one of India's richest sportspeople, lives in an up-market neighbourhood in the state capital, Hyderabad.

YS Rajasekhara Reddy

Find out whether the officer who issued this card in the name of Sania Mirza is a mad man

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy

The one-per-household BPL cards are only supposed to be issued after married couples personally appear before the authorities and have their pictures taken together in a single picture frame.

But in this case, the ration card carried two separate pictures of Mirza and someone called "Mr Narayana" in contravention of the law.

In this case it appears that the holder of the card may have been single and put the tennis star's name and photograph alongside his - claiming her to be his wife.

An angry Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has ordered an investigation into the matter.

"Find out whether the officer who issued this card in the name of Sania Mirza is a mad man. How can any one can do it? It is height of negligence," he told his officers.

The government now says an estimated 4.5 million such bogus ration cards in the state should be weeded out during the drive to be launched from next month.

Other bogus cards show photographs of beneficiaries travelling in a Skoda car and a train.

The drive will also target ration shop dealers who also use the bogus cards to siphon the cheap rice and sell it at a higher price in open market.

Nearly 24 million ration cards are in circulation in Andhra Pradesh, which has only 19 million households. That means that over four million cards in the state are bogus.



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