M A I N   N E W S

Fake applicants mar Punjab’s Shagun Scheme
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Nearly 28,000 cases pending
A sum of Rs 5,100 was given to SC girls when the scheme started in 1997-98
In 2006-2007, the government revised the amount to Rs 15,000 which saw a far greater rush in the number of applicants
At the moment, all poor girls with family income of less than Rs 30,000 annually can apply for the ‘shagun’
A whopping 27,935 cases of release of ‘shagun’ are pending since 2011-2012.

Chandigarh, March 30
A benevolent yet fund-starved Punjab Government wants to do a world of good for marriageable girls belonging to the economically weaker sections. But the government doesn’t know just how many girls should get the Rs 15,000 allowance under the ‘Shagun’ Scheme. As the government verification process moves on, it has now emerged that nearly 50 per cent of the applicants were fake in many districts.

As per a government reply to a query by Nawanshahr MLA Guriqbal Kaur in the Vidhan Sabha, 27,935 cases of release of ‘shagun’ were pending since 2011-2012. Social Welfare Minister Gulzar Singh Ranike said cases were pending 2009 onwards. “We are updating the entire data following verification. In fact, there are cases pending since 2009 onwards. We have made the calculations and will be receiving approximately Rs 115 crore to clear the backlog.”

Ranike, however, conceded that a “very large” number of cases were found to be false during a follow-up on the scheme beneficiaries. Huge sums were found to have been released in the name of unqualified applicants. Fraudulent beneficiaries included schoolgoing girls and mothers of young children.

More importantly, against the clearly laid down requirement of payment through cheque into specific accounts, crores had been allotted in bulk without following procedure.

Department sources said till very recently, districts of Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Muktsar, Bathinda, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur had not even provided the list of beneficiaries. Relevant data has not been provided to the department in a number of other cases as well.

A senior officer said, “Earlier Rs 5,100 was given to girls when the scheme started in 1997-98. In 2006-2007, the government revised the amount to Rs 15,000 which saw a far greater rush in the number of applicants. This also led to a corresponding increase in the number of fake applicants. To complicate matters, the government ran out of cash.”





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