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Rs 6 lakh for road in air
- FIR against CPM leaders in panchayat scam

Durgapur, Aug. 11: A new pond was shown where one already existed and a road was conjured out of thin air by a CPM-run village body accused of defrauding the poorest of the poor in party bastion Burdwan.

Leaders of the panchayat allegedly forged wage bills, signatures and thumb impressions to swindle over Rs 10 lakh allocated under the national rural job guarantee scheme.

The CPM leaders had kept the job cards and post office passbooks of around 300 villagers with themselves and made entries of work that was never done. The wages, however, were transferred to the villa- gers’ postal savings accounts from where the money was withdrawn allegedly with the complicity of the postmaster.

The scam came to light after the residents of Baidyanathpur and Kendra revolted. Not having received any work under the scheme for months, they ransacked the houses of several CPM leaders.

The party, smarting from a series of electoral setbacks, including some in the “Red fort”, reacted with alacrity and expelled 21 members associated with the two panchayats on Thursday.

Pandaveswar block development officer Susanta Roy today lodged an FIR against 10 people — seven functionaries of the Baidyanathpur gram panchayat, the pradhan who resigned after being expelled from the party, a contractor who was also a party member and the local postmaster. “We have charged them with criminal breach of trust, forgery, cheating and fraud,” he said.

The probe has not covered Kendra yet.

Officials probing the scam said the misappropriation had possibly started about six months ago.

In Baidyanathpur, about Rs 4 lakh had been withdrawn in the name of the pond and Rs 6 lakh was paid to contractor Narayan Sar for the supply of red gravel for the non-existent road. Sar, too, got the party’s stick last week.

According to police, all 10, including panchayat chief Ardha Chandra Ruidas, are absconding. Motiar Rahman, a senior clerk who had signed the fake wage bills, the secretary of the panchayat, Jiten Chandra Pal, job assistant Braja Go-pal Bauri, technical assistant Srikanta Nandi, and supervisors Bidhan Ruidas and Nakul Ruidas are among the accused.

“We suspect the post office had a major role to play,” said Burdwan district magistrate Rajesh Kumar Sinha.

Hundreds of CPM supporters were part of the mob that raided the leaders’ homes on the evening of August 1.

Scared, the panchayat functionaries handed back the job cards and passbooks to the villagers, which revealed that money was being deposited in their accounts and withdrawn regularly.

“I am a CPM supporter but our leaders cheated us,” said Krishna Ruidas. “The books say that I had worked for 12 days and received Rs 900 as wages. In reality, I didn’t work for a day or get a paisa.”

About 500 villagers today ransacked the house of Sundari Ruidas, a CPM member of Chhora gram panchayat, 8km from Baidyanathpur, and roughed up party member Dhananjoy Banerjee. Police said the villagers were demanding jobs under the scheme that guarantees work for 100 days a year.

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