MP begins probe into alleged multi-crore rupee scam in govt scheme for farmers
The economic offences wing (EOW) of the Madhya Pradesh government initiated an inquiry on Tuesday into an alleged multi-crore rupee scam involving officers of the horticulture and food processing department in the purchase of agriculture implements under the Mechanisation Scheme of the central government in past eight years, an official said Wednesday.
Deputy director level officers of the horticulture and food processing department allegedly not only cleared the bills related to purchase of sub-standard machines at much higher rate than the market rate but also transferred the amount of grant to dealers of implements instead of depositing the same in the beneficiary farmers’ bank accounts through direct benefit transfer (DBT), said an official who didn’t wish to be named.
Under a scheme launched in 2013, the farmers get 50% subsidy in purchase of agricultural implements from the state and central governments.
Inspector, EOW, Pankaj Gautam, who is investigating the case, said, “We have asked for details of the scheme, names of beneficiary farmers, amount transferred to their bank accounts and details of implements purchased in the past eight years. Similarly, we have sought details how the department procures the implement and hands over the same to farmers.”
“We will probe the scam which the complainant has alleged to be of Rs 100 crore in the entire period since the scheme was launched. However, the amount of scam can be ascertained during the investigation,” said Gautam.
A farmer Mukesh Patidar, of Richala Munha village of Mandsaur district, lodged a complaint with the horticulture department in August saying that it provided power tillers to farmers under the Farm Mechanisation Scheme without following the rules.
“Instead of transferring the 50% subsidy in the farmers’ account by giving them a freedom of purchasing implements of their choice, the departments’ officers transferred the amount directly to unauthorized dealers. The department handed over China-made machines in the name of power tillers to the farmers, which don’t meet any specification which a power tiller should have,” Patidar said.
Patidar said the department purchased machines for Rs 40,000 to Rs 100000 or more and thus the scam in the past eight years or so was of more than Rs 100 crores.
After his complaint, the horticulture department formed a four-member committee headed by Shrikanth Bhanot, managing director, MP Agro Industries Development Corporation Limited, to probe the matter for the year 2019-20.
The committee submitted the report on September 8 this year and also wrote to EOW to probe the matter as irregularities were found on many aspects, said an officer of the department.
The report said that about Rs 9 crore was transferred as subsidy in the account of 24 firms against the purchase of 1774 machines.
“The machines, which had been given to farmers as power tillers, are not authorized model and don’t meet the specification set by the Central government for a power tiller. The horticulture department doesn’t have any clear rules and regulations for procurement of machines, specification of the machines, transferring process of machines to farmers and registration of dealers. Most of the money was given in cash which led to irregularities in purchase,” reads the report.
The committee recommended stopping payments against all pending bills and proposals and taking strict action against the officers involved in it.
Horticulture department commissioner Pushkar Singh said, “The committee probed the purchase that took place in only one year. Now, we are going to share with EOW all the details.”