MNREGA scam built on paper bricks

  • Vishal Rambani, Hindustan Times, Patiala
  • Updated: Jun 14, 2014 11:09 IST

In the MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scam, the cheated panchayats are looking for most of construction material worth Rs 5 crore that documents say was delivered in Patran and Samana blocks.

Nearly 1-crore bricks, paid for in the financial year 2013-14, had reached many Patran villages, block development and panchyat officer (BDPO) Malwainder Singh submitted in the certificate to the additional deputy commissioner. At Gobindpura, one of the destination villages, sarpanch Karnail Singh is in shock.

"If papers show that material worth Rs 3.5 lakh, including bricks and cement, not only reached my village but also was used, show me the development works. The panchayat didn't authorize any purchase? It's a scam," said the sarpanch.

On MNREGA record, on February 22, bricks worth Rs 70,500 were received and paid for. "Cement from Shiv Shiva Company has been purchased in my name without my knowledge," said Karnail Singh. At Rampur Duggal village, sarpanch Sulakshna Devi has asked the additional deputy commissioner (development) for investigation, saying: "On paper, 25,000 bricks, plus cement and sand, reached my village, but I have received no material."

The record that Hindustan Times accessed shows the bricks being purchased from Sangrur's Janta kiln, almost 60 kilometres from the destination villages, while rules require the material to come from the nearest source. Water tanks worth Rs 11 lakh were also shown as delivered, but sarpanches don't see any.

Brick maker Mohal Lal has no capacity to supply more than 10-lakh pieces but was paid for a way larger order. "I received payment for more than 5-lakh bricks but I have supplied only 2 lakh, so far," accepted Tejinder Bansal, a brick-kiln owner who got advance payment.

"It's a scam where many people are involved. We found in a survey that almost 60% of the villages under MNREGA have received no bricks, cement nor any other material but bills have been passed and payment made," said Panchayat Union of Punjab vice-president Prem Singh Moulviwala. A quick survey of Kalwanu, Jaikhar, Dedna, Gobindpura, Daftriwala, Rampur Dugal, Maouliwala and other nearby villages confirms that the material has not reached anywhere indeed.

"Now, we have decided not to receive any material, as that will make us part of the scam. First we want criminal cases against the scamsters and then a say in purchase and use," said Maouliwala.

ADC (development) Rajesh Tripati confirmed that the BDPO of Patran had submitted the certificate of "all material received" indeed. "I will crosscheck and take action," he said, adding that he had indicted the BDPOs of Samana and Patran already for violating the department and MNREGA rules; and would make sure that the villages got their bricks.

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