Tribune News Service
Faridkot, July 10
To probe the allegations of irregularities in the utilisation of MGNREGA funds, a four-member team, led by Director, MGNREGA, Dharmvir Jha, on Wednesday visited seven villages in the district and inspected various works executed under the scheme in the last one year.
The team has initiated the probe following a complaint by SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. The matter was raised by a former sarpanch of Sadhuwala village in the district.
Alleging connivance of the district officers, material suppliers and selective gram panchayats owing allegiance to the Congress, Sukhbir had demanded a thorough probe into the irregularities.
As per the complaint, norms were flouted in the use of MGNREGA funds in Faridkot. As per the scheme, at least 100 days of guaranteed wages as employment in a financial year is provided to every rural household whose adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work. The expenditure on wages and material for any development should be in the ratio of 60:40.
However, this provision was flouted in Faridkot, reads the complaint. Quoting some cases, it was alleged that in Bhana village, the ratio of labour to material is Rs 113.34 lakh: Rs 304.48 lakh; in Tehna village, Rs 117.09 lakh: Rs 235.54 lakh; in Sadiq Rs 127.52 lakh: Rs 178.4 lakh; and in Machaki Kalan village, Rs 149.95 lakh: Rs 299.47 lakh.
Alleging huge misappropriation of funds in the interlocking cement block roads, the works which need to be carried out on public property, the interlock roads have been laid to individual farmhouses of many influential persons, it alleged. To pocket higher commission from the material suppliers, the officers laid 20-ft-wide interlocking cement roads without any requirement, the complaint alleged.
It is reported that two senior officers associated with the development works under MGNREGA are siblings.
During the visit of MGNREGA officers to Pakhi Kalan, Golewala, Hardialeana, Machaki Kalan and Jhotiwala villages, there were many complaints to the visiting team members that in most of the works executed under MGNREGA, 80 to 90 per cent of the funds were used to purchase material. For the execution of these works, machines were extensively used, replacing manual labour, thus defeating the mandate of the scheme, alleges the complainant.
There are four companies which supplied materials for most of works under MGNREGA in Faridkot and the material was purchased at exorbitant rates, it is alleged.
The manual labour was replaced with JCB machine to lay the pipes in the villages and the private contractors were engaged for the execution of works under MGNGREA, which is violation of the norms, alleged the complainant.
During its visit to Bhalaiana village in Gidderbaha, the team met some complainants. Sources said Rural Development Department officials failed to produce the required documents. The team then asked them to bring the documents to Delhi.
Gurcharan Singh, former sarpanch and one of the complainants, said, “A large number of people from the village had lodged complaint that the MGNREGA funds were misused and even those who have died were shown as labourers in the records. The genuine labourers have not yet got the honorarium, but those shown as labourers had got the money. We even met the Director, MGNREGA, today. However, the officials concerned failed to produce the records.”
Arun Kumar, District Development and Panchayats Officer, Muktsar, said, “I had no prior intimation of the team’s visit, but I went there today. Some complainants met the team.”
- The norm related to expenditure on wages and material in the ratio of 60:40 was flouted
- Misappropriation of funds in laying interlocking tiles
- Works were carried to benefit private farm houses through MGNREGA scheme
- A major portion of funds was spent on purchasing material instead of paying wages