Amid allegations of “corruption and unfair practices” in utilisation of MGNREGA funds in Punjab, a team of Union Ministry of Rural Development will visit Faridkot on Tuesday to assess the ground situation.
The development is giving jitters to the Congress-led government in Punjab that was successful in getting funds from Centre under MGNREGA and utilise these extensively in the villages.
Sources said that the government feels that SAD, which is an ally of ruling BJP, will not leave any stone unturned to stop central grant under MGNREGA to Punjab as it is politically helping Congress in the state.
The Central team’s visit has been brought about after a complaint by Gurmeet Singh Sandhu, an Akali leader and ex-sarpanch of Sadhuwala village in Faridkot. In his complaint to Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Sandhu alleged that the government had got done works under MGNREGA on individual land while the rules allowed these only on public land. He alleged that the work was carried out by contractors which was another violation leaving not much work to poor people engaged as labour under MGNREGA. Sandhu also accused the government of a pick and choose policy in selecting villages for developmental works.
“In violation of the guidelines that state that the work should be carried out on the public land, inter lock roads have been laid to the individual farmhouses of many influential persons,” Sandhu stated.
“Further, inter lock roads have been laid 20 feet wide, which is sheer wastage of MNGREGA funds and it is only done to utilise the material to its maximum to get enhanced commission from the suppliers. This misuse of MGNREGA is more blatant in village Machaki Kalan, where the highway passing through village is flanked by interlock tiles on both sides,” he added.
According to the complainant, about 80-90 per cent of funds have gone into purchase of material, and only 10 per cent of funds have been used for labour work.
“No contractor and no labour displacing machinery shall be used in the execution of works and as stated in the Act (Schedule I), contractors cannot be engaged in any manner in the execution of works. However, in Faridkot, the paths/roads are being laid by the contractors by using machinery, in sheer violation of the guidelines,” Sandhu has said in his complaint, alleging that quality of the material used is sub-standard.
He alleged that rates of the material (interlock tiles) were “arbitrarily fixed” much above the CSR rates with an intention to pocket government money.
The complaint points out that MGNREGA funds were “spent exuberantly” in villages Machaki Kalan, Sadiq, Quila Nau, Bhana, Tehna, Golewala and Pakhi Kalan, while not a single job card was issued in villages Jhoitiwala, Bholuwala and Deep Singh Wala as the panchayats elected in these villages did not owe their allegiance to the ruling Congress party.
Punjab Rural Development Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa has denied all these allegations. He said the state government were not informed officially about the visit of the central team on Tuesday.
He accused SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal of “sabotage”, saying: “This is sabotage by Sukhbir who is perturbed that we utilised a lot of MGNREGA funds in the villages, improved the infrastructure and provided employment to the poor. It is his political game to stop MGNREGA funds to Punjab as it does not suit him politically. They can do any inquiry. We are ready for any kind of probe. We are transparent. They never complained about anything to me. Now, they have their government at the Centre. They have the right to complain there. But the people should know that they will harm Punjab in the process.”