Two days after independent MLA Jignesh Mevani and Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel alleged a multi-crore scam in a single village of Amirgadh taluka in Banaskantha district, wherein job cards were issued and bank accounts were opened in the names of villagers who claimed to have not registered for work under the MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), the Amirgadh police station on August 3 registered an FIR in this regard, without naming any persons as accused.
The FIR, registered late on Sunday, was based on a complaint filed by deputy taluka development officer at Amirgadh, Dharmesh Kumar Vyas, said Amirgadh police station sub inspector TJ Desai. The FIR booked the unknown accused persons under IPC sections 406 (Criminal breach of trust), 420 (Cheating), 467 (Forgery of document) and 468 (Forgery for the purposes of cheating). “There was a mismatch in the job cards… We saw photos of males under the names of females,” said Desai.
In a joint press conference held by Mevani and Patel on August 1, Mevani and several residents of Balundra village had alleged that there are more than 500 villagers who never applied for MNREGA, never demanded any work under the said scheme, never visited the purported work sites and yet, ATM cards, bank passbooks and MNREGA accounts were opened in their names and payments were made that were siphoned off to unknown accounts.
No charges of financial misappropriation have been filed yet in the FiR. Notably, the FIR has been classified under ‘sensitive content’ making it inaccessible for public. When asked why, Desai said it has been done “so that accused are not tipped off.”
District development officer Ajay Dahiya said the FIR has been registered based on “preliminary findings,” adding that the accused shall be named once the departmental inquiry is completed, which shall continue parallel to the police probe.
“The district collector has ordered a committee to look into the allegations. At a preliminary level, we found that 226 job cards (between March and June) were deleted minus the standard protocol. The standard protocol for the deletion of job cards requires a resolution to be passed by the panchayat department first, followed by approval from the taluka development officer. Both steps were found to be missing in this case… We would know the exact nature of offence and those involved once a report is submitted by the committee to the collector’s office,” said Dahiya.
Dahiya said that the departmental inquiry shall continue parallel to the police probe. The departmental inquiry committee is being chaired by an additional collector-level officer, along with three other members including an accounting officer, a deputy district development officer of panchayat division and an executive engineer of the state road and buildings department, said Dahiya.
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