Names of dead people found in workers’ rolls, funds given for non-existent water bodies.
Bhopal: Corrupt officials have scripted a tragic end to the Rs 3,860 crore anti-poverty project sanctioned by the Centre in 2010 for lasting a solution to the socio-economic problems in the six parched and backward districts in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh.
The blatant corruption unearthed during random inspection has left investigators shocked with names of dead people appearing in the workers’ rolls.
Vehicles listed in records as tractors and earth movers for transporting gravel and other construction material were found to be cars and bikes. Similarly, development money was released for non-existent water bodies.
“In Panna district, random physical verification of nine watershed projects revealed massive corruption. Five out of nine watershed structures were never constructed though the amount was spent,” said a report by the state government’s chief technical examiner (CTE) (vigilance) R.K. Mehra.
In these nine watershed projects, an amount of Rs 6 crore was spent, out of which Rs 2.70 crore was embezzled. Payments were found to be made to people who had died years back, the report said.
“Twenty-three vehicles which were shown as tractors and earth movers were found to be motor cycles, scooters, auto rickshaws and cars,” the report said.
The probe findings have sparked an outrage in the region, forcing the state government to freeze pension of engineers involved in corruption.The then UPA government at the Centre had announced a Rs 7,286 crore special package for development of the whole region of Bundelkhand, comprising six districts in MP and seven districts in Uttar Pradesh, in 2009.
In the package, the share of MP was Rs 3,860 crore. The funds were meant for Panna, Tikamgarh, Damoh, Chhatarpur, Datia and Sagar districts.
The project envisaged economic empowerment of the poor in the region by giving a boost to agriculture and allied sectors in the area, infamous for endemic poverty, chronic water shortage and unemployment.
A PIL was filed in the MP high court by social activist Pavan Ghuwara demanding a probe into the implementation of the package, leading to the institution of an inquiry by the CTE.
Funds to the tune of Rs 135.13 were earmarked for construction of 350 stop dams in the region for conservation of water to solve the chronic water crisis. The CTE investigation found lapses in award of works to contractors. “Some contractors had started works without being awarded contracts formally. In most cases, technical specifications and other guidelines fixed for construction of the stop dams were not followed,” the report said.
“Poor quality of constructions has rendered many of these stop dams almost useless,” it said.
The field officials in charge of supervision of construction had overlooked the lapses, indicating their nexus with the contractors, the probe said.
A member of the probe team told this newspaper, on condition of anonymity, “Dams constructed under the project were of extremely poor quality and could not withstand water pressure. Their utility was found to be hardly 10 percent.”
Irregularities were also detected in dairy and animal husbandry schemes proposed under the project. Incidentally, the Centre had held back the release of nearly 50 per cent of the Rs 3,860 crore granted for the package due to non-submission of fund utilisation certificates by the state government, an officer of the MP government said.