The Punjab Police have filed a closure report in the MNREGA scam in Samana constituency while the rural development department does not agree, saying there was a largescale misuse of funds.
As the police did a U-turn in the scam that took place in the constituency of higher education and public health minister Surjit Singh Rakhra and filed an untraced report, the Aam Aadmi Party has raised the issue in Parliament, demanding a CBI probe into the use of these funds in Patiala.
Hindustan Times had exposed the scam involving around Rs 5 crore in the utilisation of MNREGA funds and rural development grants. Soon after the scam was exposed, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had shifted Rakhra from the rural development department to the higher education and public health departments.
While the rural department, in a letter, has listed it as a scam, the Punjab Police, which had registered two FIRs after an eight-month-long probe, have filed a closure report in the case. Interestingly, investigation officer SP GS Bedi allegedly didn't visit the villages where the scam had taken place and did not ascertain the MNREGA records, before filing a report.
Sources said the police, under political pressure, had taken the decision to file a report only for the departmental probe.
Rakhra was the rural development minister when the scam took place in his constituency Samana and the neighbouring town Patran. Two block development and panchayat officers were placed under suspension, while two FIRs were registered against them for embezzlement of funds.
MP demands CBI probe
Upset over the move, Patiala MP Dr Dhramvira Gandhi had raised the issue in the Lok Sabha and demanded a CBI probe. "A scam involving crores of funds under the MNREGA scheme has been unearthed in my constituency. However, I am not satisfied with the probe. There must be a CBI probe as many high-profile people and officials are involved," Dr Gandhi had said in the Lok Sabha. He also demanded confiscation of the property of the officials involved in the scam.
Talking to HT, Dr Gandhi said he would not allow anyone to usurp the funds meant for development of Patiala and for employment of the poor. "I will pursue the case to its logical end so that scamsters are punished," he added.
When contacted, SSP Gurmeet Singh Chauhan said, "The probe didn't find any embezzlement except procedural lapses. Thus, after taking legal opinion, the police have decided to file the untraceable report." He, however, said the police had found that there were procedural lapses for which departmental action should be initiated against the BDPOs.
When told that the police had lodged initial FIRs after a probe and added corruption charges, Chauhan said SP Bedi would clarify as to how he reached the conclusion that there was no scam. However, if someone was not satisfied, he could move the court, he added.
After HT had highlighted the scam, two FIRs had been registered against BDPOs Dinesh Vashisht (Samana) and Malwinder Singh (Patran), who were charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the forgery, cheating and conspiracy sections of the IPC.
Though the police said "there is no need for probe," the rural development department, which had got registered the FIR, has once again reiterated that there was a scam.
ADC stands by probe
"I still stand by my inquiry and what I have concluded. It was a scam committed by BDPOs. If there was no corruption, then why they ignored the rules and purchased materials which were to be purchased by the panchayats," said additional deputy commissioner (ADC) (development) Rajesh Tripathi, adding, "Police can say whatever they want as they have a different set-up of working, but as far as my inquiry finding is concerned, we lodged an FIR only after ascertaining that a scam had taken place."
An inquiry by the ADC had indicted the BDPOs for large-scale irregularities, siphoning off of funds and corruption. The probe found that BDPOs had embezzled money in the purchase of material for brick-lining the village streets, developing village ponds, and other civic works under the job guarantee plan. They are charged with paying Rs 5 crore as advance for bricks, cement, sand and gravel, which had not reached the villages.