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Thursday, October 01, 2020

Centre orders probe after Harsimrat alleges MGNREGA ‘scam’

In her complaint, Harsimrat Badal has alleged siphoning off funds from the central scheme by marking presence of deceased persons and releasing 100 per cent payments for projects non-existent on the ground.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | September 9, 2020 1:38:21 pm
Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigns, Harsimrat Kaur Badal resignation, Harsimrat Kaur Badal farmers bill, Harsimrat Kaur Badal protests, farmers bill passed in lok sabhaThe Shiromani Akali Dal leader resigned on Thursday.

Days after ordering a probe into alleged scholarship scam in Punjab, the Centre has now ordered an inquiry into alleged misuse of MGNREGA funds in Faridkot and Bathinda. The probe has been initiated after a complaint to Union Ministry of Rural Development by Union Minister and SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

In her complaint, Harsimrat Badal has alleged siphoning off funds from the central scheme by marking presence of deceased persons and releasing 100 per cent payments for projects non-existent on the ground.

In a communication to Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Under Secretary D P Shukla, Government of India, has asked the institute to send a team of two persons to Faridkot and Bathinda, complete the inquiry before September 14 and send the report directly to the ministry on mail. The communication mentions that it is after the willingness of the institute conveyed to the GOI that the Centre has decided to depute a team from CRRID.

This is the second time in a few days that the Centre has deputed a team to inquire into the allegations. A few days ago, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh had objected to Centre’s inquiry into state by calling it “infringement on state’s rights and an attack on federal structure”.

In her complaint, Harsimrat has alleged that a “frivolous firm was formed to route funds and 100 per cent payments of projects were released to physically non-existent firm owned by aides of Congress MLA from Faridkot, Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon.”

The complaint alleges a Dhillon aide, Karamjit Singh Tehna, is involved in the irregularities.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Dhillon said that the SAD leader were making accusations out of political frustration.

Meanwhile, Harsimrat has also alleged that funds worth lakhs have been released while no work was done on the ground. According to SAD leader, “Job cards were issued to people fraudulently, material used was not in accordance with technical specifications, deceased persons were marked present on muster rolls.”

She has further alleged that, “All this was done by utilising funds beyond the jurisdiction of village for political benefits in connivance with raw material suppliers and selective gram panchayat’s owing allegiance to ruling congress party, by forming of Excellent Marketing Company by updating forged bills in order to usurp MGNREGA in connivance with administrative officials.”

She has demanded that the Centre should stop payment, adding that “payment for the labour work should only be released and the payment of construction material withheld as MGNREGA funds are being usurped fraudulently by uploading forged bills”.

Claiming that the company in question exists only on papers, she has alleged: “The bills of this firm are updated on MGNREGA portfolio by the nodal authorities/officials, who are fully aware of the modus operandi of aforesaid frivolous firm as they are themselves involved in the usurping of MGNREGA funds. The villages where the work was shown to be done by include Bholuwala, Tehna, Buttar, Bhana, Ariyanwala Kalan, Bihlewala, Saide Ke, Kauni, Kingra, veerewala Khurd, veerewala, Sukhanwala Sher Singh wala, Sadiq, Rupianwala, Pindi Balochan, Nathalwala, Memhmuana, Mani Singh wala, Kothe Maluka Patti, Hariwala, Fandwala, Hassanbhatti, Dod, Deep Singh Wala, Channian, Machaki Mal Singh, Machaki Kalan, Moranwali, Chahal, Sadhanwala, Naraingarh.

“However, sensing danger and contemplating inquiry by your office the already updated bills of this firm were deleted from the account of Pakhi Kalan and Ghumiara village. The frivolous and forged bills uploaded accessed by me are over Rs 1 Crore but the actual figure could be much more.”

Cong MLA hits back

Dhillon, when contacted said that Harsimrat can get as many inquiries done as she wants.

“How is Karamjit Singh Tehna related to me? He is a Congressman from Kotkapura and is a contractor for last 20 years. He pays GST. Harsimrat has got four inquiries done from Centre. Not even once the Centre could find any irregularity. I just want to ask her a question that is it only the birth right of Badal clan to do business and mint money in Punjab? Others cannot even engage in legitimate business?”

He added that both Sukhbir Badal and Harsimrat Badal have complained four times.

“She is shooting from the hip and out of political frustration. I want to tell her that she missed the chance of proving to be a sympathiser of Punjab twice-first when CBI gave a closure report into Bargari sacrilege and second time when she could not stop the Centre from bringing anti-farmer agriculture ordinances. She should stop these dramatics,” he said.

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