After nine months of detection of a well-oiled old-age pension scam in Karnal district, the local police have booked criminal cases against eleven officials of the social justice and empowerment department.
Civil Line Station house officer (SHO) Lalit Kumar said on Thursday that former district social welfare officer (DSWO) Baljeet Singh Grewal (retired in March last year) and 10 others have been named as main accused by the director general of social justice and empowerment department.
Cases under sections of 419 (cheating by personation), 420 (dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for cheating), 471 (using forged document as genuine) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) have been registered.
Some of the accused are retired and the case is being investigated, said the SHO.
On November 8, Hindustan Times had reported the administration's findings wherein nearly 29,000 beneficiaries out of 43,000 for the old-age pension enrolled since 2012 were found ineligible.
The irregularities in the list of beneficiaries, which have financial implications probably to the tune of Rs 4.5 crore as stated by chief minister ML Khattar in the assembly, were committed during the previous Congress regime.
An internal audit conducted by the social justice and empowerment department had ascertained the anomalies.
The state government was granting "old-age allowance" of Rs 500 to provide social security to persons above 60 years in 2012 and the amount was subsequently raised to Rs 1,000 by the Hooda government.
A preliminary inquiry conducted by the Karnal administration had recommended an in-depth investigation to fix responsibility and recover money.
In the meantime, the social justice and empowerment department also received complaints of large-scale irregularities in the enrolment of beneficiaries and an internal probe was ordered to detect the alleged scam.
During his election campaign in Karnal, Khattar had raised the issue about inclusion of ineligible people in the old-age pension scheme under the alleged politician-bureaucrat nexus.
Additional deputy commissioner (ADC) Girish Arora had submitted findings of the preliminary inquiry to the state government before May 2014, categorically stating misappropriation of public money by corrupt officials of the social justice department.
On the basis of complaints, then Karnal deputy commissioner Balraj Singh had marked an inquiry to the ADC. Dates of birth were fudged to show the underage persons as senior citizens.
In his report, Arora had stated that it was a clear case where the officials of social justice department had been involved in enlisting ineligible persons since 2012, but no one took note of it.
"Role of former district social welfare officer (DSWO) Baljeet Singh Grewal (retired in March this year) was found suspicious as the entire alleged scam took place during his posting in Karnal," the report had stated.
Earlier, the old-age pension beneficiaries were declared fit to get pension by a panel of tehsildar, a government doctor and a representative of DSWO. But in 2012, the Hooda government changed rules and authorised DSWO alone to finalise beneficiaries on the basis of age shown on the voter identity cards.
"Records from the local election office confirmed large-scale discrepancies where age proofs were fudged," the ADC had stated. firstname.lastname@example.org