District Red Cross Societies should not transfer their unspent funds collected for specific natural calamities to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund or Chief Minister’s Relief Fund except on demand rather schemes for utilization of such funds should be formulated as per the first schedule of the Indian Red Cross Society Act 1920.
This was informed to the Punjab and Haryana high court by an inquiry committee constituted by the high court in March 2009 comprising of Justices(retd) AL Bahri and RK Nehru to look into the doubtful working of Red Cross Societies in Punjab, Haryana and UT Chandigarh.
This scandal had come to the fore after HT published a series of reports in December 2007 based on voluminous information of the NGO, Resurgence India had obtained under the RTI Act. Later, the NGO had moved the high court, seeking CBI probe and prosecution of erring IAS officers who had allegedly misused the Red Cross funds to the tune of crores.
The enquiry report informed the high court that in the years 2007-08 and 2008-09 a total sum of Rs 96.13 lakh rupees was transferred to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund by Red Cross Societies of Punjab. The report mentioned that there was no natural calamity in the country or states during the period and the funds were transferred metioning the balance amount remaining unspent.
“We are of the firm view that this was not in consonance with the spirit of the 1920 Act. As a matter of fact, no distinction can be drawn after donations are received by the district Red Cross Societies with respect to donations for specific or without specific purpose, meaning thereby that the Red Cross Societies’ funds reserves available and collected for specific purpose or otherwise are to be ultimately utilized for other objectives as well as given in the Firsh Schedule of the Act of 1920,” read the report.
As per the Act of 1920 the funds could be utilized for aid to the demobilized, sick and wounded armed forces personnel, maternity and child welfare; nursing and ambulance work; to provide comforts and necessary garments etc. for hospitals and health institutions. There is also a provision of utilization of funds for improvement of health, prevention of disease and mitigation of suffering and such other cognate objects as may be approved by the Society from time to time etc.
However, the report submitted by the committee mentioned, a perusal of the account of different district Red Cross Societies indicated that seldom Red Cross Societies funds were utilized for such purposes mentioned in the Act.
The enquiry report also mentioned that as per the information made available by various district Red Cross Societies an amount of Rs 2.49 crores was transferred to the Punjab Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and Rs 73.73 lakhs to Haryana Chief Minister’s Relief Fund from 1998-99 to 2007-08.
The committee in its report also mentioned that it had been observed that deputy commissioners at their own sweet will had been sanctioining expenditure of the district Red Cross Scoeites even for the purposes not connected with the objectives of the Red Cross. “There doesn’t seem to be any check or restriction on such powers,” read the report.
The committee has submitted that directions are required to be issued to direct the authorities managing Prime Minister’s Relief Fund to refund the amout transferred to it by district Red Cross Societies of Punjab during the years 2007-08 and 2008-09.
The committee has also made a suggestion to issue directions to formulate proper schemes for spending Red Cross Societies’ funds in future duly approved in the executive committee meeting of the Societies.
Taking up a petition filed by the rice millers from Punjab, who had highlighted cheating with the central government subsidy to the tune of Rs 120 crores, to issue directions to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look into their complaint, the Punjab and Haryana high court has issued notice of motion to the CBI.
The petitioners including Manpreet Singh and six other rice millers also sought directions that in the meanwhile the evidence be protected which is in form of paddy lying in the stocks of the guilty parties / rice mills which is resulting in loss by way of misappropriation and cheating with the government of India's subsidy.
It was submitted that the Union government had sanctioned Rs 190 crores to compensate rice sheller on account of up-gradation of damaged crop to genuine rice millers who had suffered great losses due to PAU-201 paddy variety crop in the year 2009-2010.
The court was informed that many persons, rice millers and officials of Food Corporation of India (FCI) had placed the PAU 201 variety crop of 2009-10 with other rice varieties which were produced in the subsequent years to cheat central government and dishonestly claim the amount payable under the central government scheme.
Already an amount of Rs 150 crores approximately has been wrongfully distributed and claimed by showing other varieties of rice as PAU 201, informed advocate APS Shergill, appearing for the petitioners, to the court.
The court was informed that the petitioners had filed the complaint with CBI on May 13 to save the general population who would be consuming the defective variety which may have serious repercussions on the health of the general population being sent to public distribution system.
The petitioners mentioned that they were running their respective mills from the last more than 10 years and an agreement was executed between the petitioners and their respective corporations/agencies for the year 2009-10 for getting the paddy milled into rice. As per the agreement, the petitioners i.e. millers wer required to deliver the rice against the paddy stored positively by March 31, 2010.
It was submitted that even after the execution of the agreement, petitioners initiated the process to store the paddy variety of PAU-201 and it had been found that there was excessive damage and discolouration percentage in rice. On this, the petitioners had refused to store the variety of aforesaid paddy i.e. PAU-201. Thereafter, the farmers had created law and order situation in the state of Punjab on account of, non-lifting of paddy from the open, market by the petitioners being allottees of concerned agencies.
The court was informed, "Petitioners have come to know that many rice shellers of the state for getting the benefits given by the government regarding the milling of CMR (custom milled rice) of KMS (kharif marketing season) 2009-10 of PAU-201 variety of paddy, are milling the KMS 2010-11 of other varieties and putting the same in the account of CMR of KMS 2009-10 and by this ­bringing huge losses to the central government exchequer," read the petition.
The case would now come up for hearing on June 7.