The rural development department still awaits utilisation certificates for Rs 7 crore distributed as discretionary grant by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Hira Singh Gabria during his 2007-12 term as minister, but a closer examination of the disbursal clearly points towards embezzlement.
As many as 18 cheques worth Rs 19.75 lakh from Gabria's discretionary funds were collected by Mangat Rai, personal assistant (PA) of the then Akali MLA Jagjivan Pal Singh Kheernia, in a single day - May 12, 2011 -- from the Machhiwara block development and panchayat officer's (BDPO) office. He collected the money in the name of panchayats in Macchiwara block in Kheernia's segment Samrala; but they have no record of it even now.
Both Kheernia and Gabria (Atam Nagar-Ludhiana) lost in the 2012 assembly polls, but this matter remains unexplained.
For the Rs 19.75 lakh, beneficiaries mentioned against such grants have not submitted any surety bond or affidavit for the money's utilisation even though that is mandatory for these grants that are disbursed through the rural development and panchayats department.
The intended beneficiaries included villages Sheria, Hedobet, Ranwan, Poonia, Mushqabad, Chahr Sahib, Shamashpur, Baleo, Hambowal Bet, Burma, Hedo Taha, Sharbatgarh Atari, Garhi Tarkhana, Takhra, Chakk Lohat, Puwat and Machhiwara (two grants). The grants were disbursed in the name of a 'youth and sports club' or simply 'panchayat', and Mangat signed as the recipient of cheques.
A visit by HT revealed how not one of the beneficiary bodies have any record of the grant. In Sherian village, for instance, sarpanch Jaswinder Kaur maintained that the panchayat had received Rs 1 lakh for a stadium from the area MLA, but she acknowledged, "We cannot have a stadium in Rs 1 lakh." Asked if there was any document or receipt in the panchayat records reflecting the disbursal, she replied, "It's just 7-8 months back that we received Rs 1 lakh from the MLA," she said, even though the money was taken from the BDPO on May 12, 2011.
Ludhiana district development and panchayats officer (DDPO) Amardeep Singh Bains, when contacted, confirmed that not a single beneficiary from these villages in Machhiwara block had so far submitted any affidavit or utilisation certificate (UC). "We have sent notices to the beneficiaries," Bains said, adding that some beneficiaries had come with affidavits for demand of grants that have already been collected by Mangat. "Such affidavits do not mean anything now."
Bains sought to underline that discretionary grants are now being transferred online, directly into the accounts of the beneficiaries, in Ludhiana district, the first district to start the system introduced on February 1 this year.
Efforts to contact both Gabria and Kheernia did not bear fruit.