Some of the beneficiaries of the Telangana government’s flagship programme to distribute sheep have pulled the wool over officials’ eyes and sold the animals in neighbouring states. It has now been found that many such sheep have made a return to Telangana after they were bought by officials to be distributed under the scheme.
According to officials involved in procurement of sheep, they have been finding several sheep in markets in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh which they had earlier marked. “The markings were partially removed but we could make out that the sheep we purchased earlier and distributed to beneficiaries somehow made it back to the markets from where we purchased them,’’ a top official of Telangana Animal Husbandry Department said Monday.
State Animal Husbandry minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav told The Indian Express on Monday that since August 1, officials have lodged 85 cases against beneficiaries for “recycling of sheep units’’ given to them. “Some officials, too, were involved and I have suspended two veterinary doctors for malpractices in distribution of sheep,’’ Yadav said. A sheep unit comprises 20 female sheep and one ram, and each unit costs the state government Rs 1.25 lakh, including transportation costs.
Early this year, Telangana government announced that it would give away 84 lakh sheep to the Yadava and Kurma communities in the state to revive caste-based occupation. The government set aside Rs 5,000 crore for the scheme, which aimed to benefit 4 lakh Yadava and Kurma families. The distribution of sheep started in June. So far, about 23 lakh sheep have been distributed. Procurement and distribution has been temporarily halted as the government is trying to plug loopholes.
Sangareddy, Medak, Jogulamba Gadwal, Wanaparthy, Siddipet, Khammam and Bhadradri Kothagudem districts account for the maximum cases of recycling of sheep by beneficiaries, said officials. “Some agents are approaching beneficiaries with offers to purchase sheep and some of them are selling for the easy money. The agents are transporting the sheep to Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh. The same sheep are being purchased by the Telangana government at a higher rate. We estimate that there must be at least 300 such cases by now,” an official of the state Animal Husbandry Department said.
To prevent this kind of fraud, the government had earlier decided to geo-tag the sheep, but did not proceed after it was found that this would cost Rs 100 crore more.
It has also been found that some officials were not following the specified norms for purchasing sheep and certifying them for procurement and distribution. Two veterinary doctors in Sircilla, who were suspended Sunday, allegedly certified that local sheep were fit to be procured.
Yadav said Monday that the government is planning to set up a task force in each district, comprising police and revenue officials, to detect and prevent “recycling” of sheep. “We are conducting surprise inspections and if a beneficiary has sold sheep, we are booking him, the buyer and the transporter too. In cases where beneficiaries claim sheep died of ill-health, we are investigating. In genuine cases, we are replacing the sheep,’’ Yadav said.