Tribune News Service
Patiala, July 11
Following The Tribune story on the alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds by state officials, the government today ordered a departmental probe into the matter.
In the news report, it was highlighted that sarpanches and panchayat members in connivance with department officials had allegedly bungled MGNREGA funds.
Rural Development and Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said, “We have gone through the news report and there is ample evidence to suggest that there were certain wrongdoings involving department officials. We have ordered a probe by senior department officers and if needed, a Vigilance probe will also be ordered.”
The news report was based on the study published in the Indian Journal of Economics and Development, according to which, only 1.64 per cent beneficiary households got the mandated 100-day employment; while 21.29 per cent got no work.
In certain cases, sarpanches, in connivance with block development officials, pocketed Rs 20 to Rs 60 in respect of every job card issued under the scheme. In many cases, these were made in the name of big farmers and landowners.
The Empirical Analysis of Implementation of MGNREGS across Different Social Groups in Punjab by Punjabi University, Patiala, was sponsored by the University Grants Commission (UGC). It was conducted in 65 villages of 22 districts of Punjab.
Gurdarshan Singh, OSD to the minister, said, “All big farmers and landlords who got the benefit will be identified. The study is based on the implementation of the Central scheme during the previous SAD-BJP tenure, but we have decided to meet the victims and identify sarpanches and panchayat department officers who indulged in corruption.”
Gian Singh, one of the researchers, said, “Highlighting the state of affairs and the fact that the actual beneficiaries get their due was the whole idea of the study. The probeis a welcome step as not many things have changed in the past few years when the study was compiled.”
A top department official, requesting anonymity, claimed that the scenario had changed and ample checks and balances had been applied so that such malpractices did not take place. “However there is reluctance within the department to probe the ones who made a fortune by embezzling funds since they had shared the bounty with the officers concerned,” he added.
Meanwhile, Union Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal today alleged that Punjab was plagued by MNREGA mafia, which was pocketing central funds meant for poor farmers and labourers. She urged Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Tomar to initiate strict action against Congress functionaries and officials responsible for this.
In a letter to the minister, Harsimrat said as per media reports, MNREGA funds were being siphoned off by Congress functionaries in league with corrupt officials adversely affecting the success of the scheme. She said as per a UGC study covering 65 villages in 22 districts, the scheme was also being managed properly and could only generate 20.23 average days of employment in a year against the mandated 100 days.
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