Underprivileged people of Muktsar district, the home turf of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, received a lion’s share for construction of houses in 2011 in the run-up to the assembly elections, it has emerged.
Funds to the tune of over Rs 40 crore were pumped into Muktsar district alone from the social infrastructure fund (SIF) to help economically weaker sections (EWS) construct or repair their houses, while five districts, including SAS Nagar, Ferozepur, Ludhiana, Gurdaspur and Patiala, got Rs 5 crore. No funds were marked for the other districts.
As per official records accessed by local advocate and RTI activist HC Arora from the Punjab Urban Development Authority (Puda) under the RTI Act, vide a letter dated October 11, 2012, a sum of Rs 45.69 crore was released from the SIF between January 2011 and March 2012.
The perusal of the records brings to the fore that in Muktsar district, over 19,000 families benefited from the grant. While over 6,000 families were given at least Rs 35,000 each by way of assistance for construction of ‘kutcha’ houses, over 13,000 families got Rs 15,000 each for repair of houses.
But in sharp contrast, only 400 EWS families were given funds to build houses in the other five districts, while only 816 families got Rs 15,000 each as financial help for repair of houses.
While in a majority of the cases, Rs 35,000 each was released for construction of houses and Rs 15,000 each for repairs, in case of Bhai Ka Kera village of Muktsar, a sum of Rs 1,47,554 each was released for the construction of 150 houses, including the cost of constructing outer walls, gates, drainage and toilets.
“An independent inquiry into the use of these funds in Muktsar and other districts is needed to find out how well these were utilised as even a one-EWS room cannot be built with Rs 35,000,” Arora, who practises in the Punjab and Haryana high court, said.
The Puda authorities, in stamped documents under the RTI Act, admitted that they had not received the “utilisation certificates” so far from the deputy commissioners. This despite the fact that Puda, while sending the funds to the Gurdaspur DC, for instance, specifically stated that the utilisation certificate of the amount be sent to the planning department as well as to Puda.
The state government had recently issued directions to the authorities concerned across the state to submit “utilisation certificates” of sanctioned grants.
The documents reveal that the government sanctioned Rs 10 crore and Rs 2.50 crore for Muktsar from November 11-17, 2011. The election code of conduct had come into force on December 24. A file noting pertaining to the Rs 10-crore grant released on November 11 states: “Chief administrator, Puda, has stated that chief minister has ordered that this amount be released today itself. File be put up for approval, and the approval of the CM-cum-chairman, Puda be obtained ex-post facto.”
A notification was issued in June 2010 under the Punjab Infrastructure (Development and Regulation) Act, 2002, that in order to promote social infrastructure, the state may create a social infrastructure fund, and may also use it for creating social infrastructure in sports, health, education and construction of EWS housing.
Puda authorities said the SIF money had been distributed on the lines of “untied grants”, which are released by the chief minister/ministers—in terms of guidelines issued in February 2011—like discretionary grants. Under these guidelines, DCs have to submit utilisation certificates after the grants have been released and used by the beneficiaries.
Muktsar grants at a glance
Funds were meant to help economically weaker sections build/repair houses.
Feb 3, 2011 R1.88 crore
Feb 1, 2011 R62.23 lakh
March 4, 2011 R2.56 crore
March 9, 2011 R2.66 crore
April 21, 2011 R75.4 lakh
May 10, 2011 R2.51 crore
May 9, 2011 R2.48 crore
July 25, 2011 R3.53 crore
Aug 4, 2011 R1.08 crore
Oct 16, 2011 R10 crore
Nov 11, 2011 R10 crore
Nov 17, 2011 R2.5 crore
TOTAL R40.6 crore