Probe exposes massive loot in UPA’s flagship job guarantee project in Bihar and MP

Farmers ploughing land
An investigation by Headlines Today unearthed massive corruption in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme – UPA government’s flagship project.

The probe in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh revealed how funds meant for building roads and water tanks, and digging irrigation wells are being siphoned off.

In Bihar’s Begusarai district, the government spent Rs.15 lakh of taxpayers’ money to plant 2000 trees on a trench. The panchayat records from 2009-2010 show the amount being used for the same. But on the ground forget trees, there isn’t a blade of grass that can be seen growing.

Similarly, in Aruniya village of Aurangabad, a road has been under construction for eight years and has sucked Rs.16 lakh. But there is no trace of any progress being made on this thin strip of land which is the lifeline of the village.

When Headlines Today confronted the police and administration about the brazen loot, they said a probe would be ordered if irregularities are found.

But it is not public works alone where MNREGA has spawned a scam. It has also raised an army of ghost beneficiaries who are committing a day-light robbery under the noses of the government.

In Khagariya district, an assistant sub-inspector has been shown working as labour under the scheme.

Q: Where were you posted from 18.5.2010 to 25.5.2010?
Sunil Chaudhary, Assistant Sub-Inspector in Bihar Police:
I was deputed at the CM house, as part of the security there.

As an assistant sub inspector in Bihar police, Sunil claims to have been a part of Nitish Kumar’s security. But according to the panchayat register at Khagariya’s Rahimpur Pachkutti Village, he has been working as a labourer under MNREGA.

Q: Your name and your brothers’ names have been listed as labourers as MNREGA and that you worked from 18.5.2010 to 25.5.2010
Sunil:
No there’s nothing like that, I am a government hawaldar.

Q: You’ve never worked as a labourer?
Sunil:
No

But if one goes by the 2010 documents then Sunil has been drawing a salary from the state government, while being on the Centre’s payroll under MNREGA.

This is not an isolated case. The scheme is riddled with corruption. In the last seven years, 1, 2600,000 people have been issued job cards in Bihar alone and Rs.1,109 crore have been paid off in the past 10 months.

Dwarka Tiwari is fairly well off. His son and daughter are gainfully employed in Delhi. Yet, on the panchayat register his entire family is getting grants from the rural guarantee scheme.

When Headlines Today took up the issue with the programme in-charge, he readily admitted to the irregularities.

Scam in Madhya Pradesh

If irregularities in the scheme can happen in Bihar, it can also happen elsewhere. Headlines Today found evidence of enough corruption to make a farce out of the rural jobs guarantee scheme in Madhya Pradesh as well.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has sent thousands of letters to villagers promising to dig wells to irrigate the individual farming tracts of the recipients.

The statistics in Madhya Pradesh support the Chief Minister’s promise. Under the MNREGA scheme 2,50,000 wells have been dug till date in the state of Madhya Pradesh and Rs.2,838 crore have been spent on it.

Headlines Today tried to track down a few of these wells that had been dug under the MNREGA scheme. As per information, a well had been dug on land owned by one Resham Bai in Harbanspura village of Khandwa district.

Resham Bai had a letter from the CM telling her that a well would be dug on her land. Inaugural puja was done on her land and the spot marked where the well would be dug. But then the actual digging took place only on paper not on land.

Checking government records, Headlines Today was under the impression that quite a few wells had been dug in and around the same village under MNREGA scheme.

But it could not find the trace of a single functional well. In some cases, no digging had been done and in some a small hole was visible.

The loot in the scheme in Madhya Pradesh is not limited to digging wells. In 2012-2013, Rs.10 crore and 63 lakh had been spent in the district to build roads.

The fleecing of MNREGA funds in Madhya Pradesh is not limited to wells and roads, it extends to the building of non-existent tanks to store run away rain water.

In Aamagarh village of Seevni district, a tank was built at a cost of Rs.71 lakh.

In Burena Kudh village of the district Rs.1,25,00,000 crore was spent to get a tank ready but it does not store much water.

All in all in the past one year, Rs.12,71,00, 000 were spent in Seevni district alone in building such tanks.

But how was the money siphoned off? One method used was to show payments to non-living day labourers. Not exactly ghosts but those who are deceased.

Seven years ago when MNREGA was launched after much fanfare, the logic being given out was that people will no longer desert their villages because there would be adequate opportunity to earn a decent living right there. But thousands of crores worth public funds allocated to MNREGA has failed to stem the flow of rural desertion, because in far flung villages and districts of India MNREGA has bred corruption.

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