Tuesday, August 29, 2000,
Chandigarh, India






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Development funds siphoned off
Cases to be filed against 191 ex-sarpanches
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Aug 28 In one of the worst frauds pertaining to border area village development grants totalling several crores of rupees, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau is all set to register criminal cases against 191 former sarpanches, a number of junior engineers and panchayat secretaries.

Top Vigilance Bureau officials told TNS today that an inquiry into all cases pertaining to large-scale embezzlement of funds from the grants meant for the pavement of streets, upgradation of school buildings and bricklining of drains in the border districts Ferozepore, Gurdaspur and Amritsar had been completed. Sources said that the contents of the inquiry report, in which a large number of former sarpanches junior engineers and panchayat secretaries had been indicted, were discussed last week with the top state government authorities.

The state government has directed the Vigilance officers concerned to get criminal cases registered against all persons involved in the scam.

Sources said the bureau had started the investigation following complaints regarding large-scale bungling in the spending of grants meant for development. The work executed in each village which had got the grant was got assessed from the state Public Works Department. The PWD officials concerned found embezzlement of funds up to 50 per cent.

Sources said that about Rs 14 crore was given by the state government for the development of villages in the border districts. Villages were allocated funds as per their population.

When contacted, Mr Sujan Singh, Minister of State for Panchayats, said that it was one of the biggest frauds in recent times. The authorities had been told to get criminal cases registered.

Meanwhile, the Vigilance Bureau has sought the permission of the state government to transfer the case, which was registered against a former Minister of Panchayats, to the Chandigarh police for putting up the challan in court.

The case was registered against the minister and some senior former officers of the department in connection with bungling in grants allocated to rural areas in the state. The bureau took the plea that as the offence in this connection was committed in Chandigarh, technically the case should be filed in court here. In this case also, the bureau has completed the inquiry.
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