| Naveen Patnaik after his return to Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee |
Bhubaneswar, April 12: With the Centre set to initiate a CBI probe into alleged corruption in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in the state, the Opposition today trained its guns on the Naveen Patnaik government.
In yet another setback to the state government, the Centre has stopped releasing funds under MNREGA to the state for 2011-12 because of the alleged irregularities and its failure to submit utilisation certificates, an official source said.
Supreme Court was yesterday informed by the additional solicitor general that the Union rural development ministry had given its nod for a CBI inquiry into the matter.
This would be the first CBI probe into any incident in the state during the incumbency of Naveen Patnaik as chief minister. Ruling party leaders, however, asserted they were not worried about the impending probe.
Naveen said the state government would cooperate with the CBI. After returning from Delhi Naveen told reporters here, “Supreme Court’s direction will be followed. However, we have not seen a copy of the order yet.”
A leading NGO, the Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS), had drawn the court’s attention to the issue of alleged diversion of MNREGA funds by the state.
After the CBI probe order, the Opposition today demanded that the probe should not be confined to the eight districts where the survey work had been carried out by CEFS. The BJP said the amount of misappropriation would be much more if the CBI probe were to encompass all 30 districts in the state.
BJP senior leader and former minister Bijay Mohapatra said: “The chief minister is responsible for misuse of public money. Naveen is head of the state council which monitors and supervises execution of work under MNREGA, and so cannot escape responsibility.”
Coming down heavily on the government, Mohapatra said the state government’s claim of being honest and transparent had been proved “wrong” by the apex court. “The state government took action against some junior officials, but it shielded the collectors who were actually responsible for the scam,” he said.
State Congress working president Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra said the party would provide all kinds of documented proof to the CBI on the alleged irregularities in the scheme. He too demanded that the probe be conducted in all the districts.
Senior BJD leader and agriculture minister Damador Rout said: “The state government will not oppose the CBI inquiry and the Opposition leaders should not crow over the inquiry order. The apex court has made the district collectors responsible for the improper utilisation of money. The state government has already taken action in this regard. It has also adopted a policy to make the MNREGA transparent.”
He said the Opposition was trying to create an unnecessary controversy over the CBI inquiry.
“Naveen can no longer claim to be honest. Even after CEFS had brought the matter to its notice, the state government did not take note of its findings. Instead it engaged a number of lawyers to defend its image.”