With complaints of bribe and extortion marring Centre’s flagship housing scheme Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) in UP, the Adityanath government has directed all district administrations to lodge FIRs in such cases and sack the official or the village head concerned if they were found guilty. Recently, three village heads in Sitrapur district and a village development officer in Pratapgarh was booked for allegedly extorting money or asking for bribe from beneficiaries under the scheme.
The matter had come to light on July 5, when Rural Development Minister Mahendra Singh had visited Reusa block in Sitapur to distribute approval certificates to the beneficiaries. During the event, some beneficiaries claimed that pradhans had extorted money from them on the pretext of ensuring that they indeed get the benefits of the housing scheme.
Following this, Singh had asked the district magistrate to inquire into the allegations. In its report, the district administration had stated that village pradhan Hoshram allegedly took Rs 8,000 and Rs 12,000 from two beneficiaries of Chamaranpurva village as bribe. In Sohalia village, the pradhan’s son was found to have taken Rs 11,000 and Rs 30,000 from two beneficiaries.
When contacted, Sitapur Chief Development Officer Arvind Chaurasia said: “Four FIRs have been lodged against the village heads.” The FIRs have been lodged under sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 419 (cheating by personation) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the IPC at Sadarpur and Rausa police stations. He added that notices have been issued to two pradhans, intimating them about the charges and the district administration’s proposal to remove them from their posts. Also, money will be recovered from them, said Chaurasia.
Another beneficiary from Dhondhi has alleged that Raj Kishore Singh, husband of village pradhan Sudha Singh, had taken Rs 10,000 from her. Her complaint has been sent to the concerned Talgaon police station so that an FIR could be lodged, said officials.
Under PMAY, the Centre provides Rs 1.20 lakh in three installments to the beneficiary for the construction of a house, along with Rs 12,000 for building a toilet and Rs 15,750 as labour charge for 90 days. The village pradhan has no role in the selection of the beneficiaries.
Officials said the local administration was scheduled to select beneficiaries on the basis of their economic condition — based on the Socio Economic and Caste Census of 2011. As the data was six to seven years old, the administration held a drive to verify the socio economic condition of beneficiaries in a meeting of the gram sabha, where village pradhans were also present.
“After the meeting, pradhans started misleading the beneficiaries… They told the villagers that if they need the benefit they have to pay money or their name will be removed from the list,” said an official. When contacted, Mahendra Singh said: “Directives have been issued to all divisional commissioners and district magistrates to get FIRs lodged against pradhans and local officials if complaints of bribery are received against them. Officials will be sacked and pradhans removed from posts if found guilty.”
He added that an inquiry against a village development officer in Pratapgarh has been started following a complaint that he took money from a beneficiary for releasing the installment. “Installments are transferred directly into the accounts of beneficiaries… As many as 6.97 lakh people have been registered for the scheme in UP. The first installment of Rs 40,000 has been transferred into the bank accounts of 5.73 lakh beneficiaries… The previous SP government did not implement the scheme. Around 9.7 lakh houses will be built under the scheme in the current financial year,” said the minister, adding that the government will run a mass awareness campaign in UP, appealing to the beneficiaries not to give bribe to any person.