August 31, 2017 4:05:06 am
WHILE the BJP government in Chhattisgarh is under fire for deaths of more than 200 cows in cattle shelters run by local BJP leader Harish Verma, state government agencies had been informed about suspected irregularities in operation and finances of at least one of these shelters back in November 2014. But despite the warning, Shagun Gaushala, one of the errant cow shelters, owned by the BJP leader in Durg district, received nearly Rs 30 lakh in 2015-16 and 2016-17, official documents reveal.
In 2014, Chhattisgarh Lok Aayog had instituted an inquiry, and named Shagun Gaushala in Rajpur village, Durg, among 27 errant cattle sheds that allegedly mismanaged grants from the government-run Chhattisgarh Gau Seva Aayog. Shagun Gaushala was the shelter where cows were first found dead on August 18. The BJP leader was arrested the following day and was suspended by the party subsequently.
A document detailing investigation by Lok Aayog dated November 14, 2014 says Gau Seva Aayog (cattle welfare commission) gives grants for fodder, breeding, medicines, water, wells, sheds and use of dung and urine. “It has come to the notice of Lok Aayog that grants by the government to gaushalas for these reasons are not being spent for this purpose. In several gaushalas, there are various financial and other irregularities,” according to the document, signed by chief lokayukta of the Aayog.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh on Wednesday said his government is acting against the irregularities. “There were weaknesses and irregularities. That is why so much action was taken, which I don’t think has happened in history,” he said.
For Shagun Gaushala, the Lok Aayog said, “…Information has been received that a large number of cows were given to this gaushala. But there is complete mismanagement. There are very few cows present inside, (even though) more than Rs 16 lakh has been given in grants.”
Documents accessed by The Indian Express from the Gau Seva Aayog show that despite this warning, Shagun Gaushala received Rs 19.62 lakh and Rs 10 lakhs, respectively, in 2015-16 and 2016-17 from the Aayog.
A 2017 document of the Aayog states that Shagun had 905 cows. When The Indian Express had spoken with Harish Verma hours before his arrest, he had said, “I have around 600 cows in my gaushala. I have not been given grants for over a year. I am running out of money to operate the gaushala.”
Asked about these irregularities, Gau Seva Aayog president Visheshwar Patel said, “We are aware, and were in the process of taking action. A team had gone to Shagun Gaushala in July 2016 and irregularities were found. After that, we sought an explanation and grants for this year were stopped.”
Chhattisgarh Gau Seva Aayog has 115 registered gaushalas under it, which on paper take care of 26,493 cattle. In the last three years, including the ongoing fiscal, the government agency has distributed Rs 25.99 crore in grants.
But the Aayog’s documents show that Rs 7.64 crore of this amount was distributed among 25 of 27 gaushalas listed as errant by Chhattisgarh Lok Aayog, and despite the warning in November 2014.
On Wednesday, Chief Minister Raman Singh said: “A judicial inquiry has been launched, there have been arrests, and directors have been suspended. All corrective measures have been taken and a three-member committee of ministers has been formed to look at systemic correction. I have read all documents (of Lok Aayog) —- people who had to take action did not, that is why they have been suspended and action taken against officers.”
He said, “The man who runs the gaushala (Harish Verma) is guilty, as are those who gave him money…checks were not carried out despite it (the issue) being brought to the notice of Lok Aayog.”
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