The Maharashtra government has finally cancelled the monthly honorarium to all "bogus artists", who were from the Katol Assembly constituency in Nagpur district.
The state government has taken the decision in the wake of the High Court panel recommendations that investigated the allegations of providing monthly honorarium to "bogus artists" from the Katol Assembly constituency in Nagpur district which is being represented by the Maharashtra minister for PWD (public undertaking), Anil Deshmukh.
The state government on its part informed the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court that orders for granting honorarium to these persons have been cancelled and other recommendations of Justice HD Dhabe panel were under consideration.
Besides deciding action against culprits, the government is also expected to decide guidelines for granting such honorarium in the future, its counsel informed the court.
The court expressed anguish over the failure of the government to take any concrete steps against persons who were held guilty of gross abuse and misuse of their powers to favour the ineligible persons, causing the loss to state exchequer and depriving genuine artists from securing financial assistance from the directorate of cultural affairs.
The Court panel of Justice HW Dhabe in its report confirmed that the minister Anil Deshmukh, who was then the minister of state for Cultural Affairs during the Sena-BJP alliance regime, abused and misused his position by providing benefit to 448 bogus artists from Katol and Narkhed tehsils (areas represented by Deshmukh in the Assembly). Most of them were Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and not artists, the report pointed out.
Responding to a public interest litigation, filed by the BJP legislator, Chandrasekhar Bawankule, the High Court had requested Justice Dhabe committee to fix the responsibility in the bogus artists' case. The committee in its 682-page report had come down heavily upon Deshmukh for misusing his position. The minister was aware of rules framed by the government, eligibility criteria laid down for getting honorarium. However, the minister preferred to provide honorarium to those, who were close to him, violating the existing rules. The committee also blamed the then Cultural Affairs minister, Pramod Navalkar for allowing his deputy to hoodwink with the procedures and commit such irregularities.
The fraud was exposed by the BJP legislator, Bawankule, when it was found that the state government honorarium of Rs 500 per month for Lok Shahirs, Kirtankars and other folk artists in recognition of their life-long contribution in preserving rich cultural heritage of the state, were being misused and doled out to around 500 so-called artists of Katol region in the district. Almost all the beneficiaries were the supporters of Deshmukh in his constituency.
A division bench of Bombay High Court, consisting of Justice Ambadas Joshi and Justice RC Chavan granted time till August 10 to the state for fixing responsibilities for the scam.