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HindustanTimes Tue,29 Jul 2014

MNREGA scam: 2 FIRs lodged

Vishal Rambani, Hindustan Times  Patiala, June 16, 2014
First Published: 09:04 IST(16/6/2014) | Last Updated: 09:08 IST(16/6/2014)

After HT reports highlighted 5-crore scam in implementing MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in the constituency of then Punjab rural development minister Surjit Singh Rakhra, two FIRs (first-information reports) have been registered in the Samana and Patran blocks of this district.

Block development and panchayat officers (BDPOs) Dinesh Vashisht (Samana) and Malwinder Singh (Patran) are charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the forgery, cheating and conspiracy sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Surjit Singh Rakhra represents Samana constituency in the state assembly.

The district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) had lodged the complaint. The police now will investigate where the MNREGA money went. An inquiry by the additional deputy commissioner (development) had indicted the BDPOs for largescale irregularities, siphoning of funds, and corruption, yet neither the rural development department nor the police had made out any case against them.

The FIRs lodged now say that the BDPOs have embezzled money in the purchase of the material for brick-lining the village streets, developing village ponds, and other civic works under the job-guarantee plan. They are charged with paying 5 crore as advance for bricks, cement, sand, and gravel that has not reached the villages.

No member of any village panchyat is involved in the purchase. The BDPOs also violated the rule that required 60% of the grant to be used for employing labour and 40% for buying material. Many panchyats are even unaware that any MNREGA money has been spent in their villages, as they see no work.

Senior superintendent of police Hardial Singh Mann said both BDPOs had gone into hiding when given the chance to record statement. “Superintendent of police (special branch) GS Bedi will conduct the investigation,” he added.

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