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Uproar over job funds scam

Patna, Dec. 3: The RJD-led Opposition today staged a noisy walkout in the Assembly over an alleged scam in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) funds to the tune of Rs 5,997 crore and the state government’s reluctance to recommend a CBI probe into it.

As Leader of the Opposition Abdul Bari Siddiqui read out the copy of the Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) report that suggested “misappropriation” of about Rs 6,000 crore, bedlam started in the House with the treasury bench members countering Siddiqui for quoting “false and fabricated” figures. The RJD members also stood up and launched a vitriolic attack on the government for “plundering” the funds meant for poor people’s job.

Beginning the debate over the issue in the post-lunch session, Siddiqui pointed out that the Supreme Court had directed the Odisha government to hand over a similar case to the CBI, to which Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik abided by. “The BJP in Odisha was a party to the demand for the CBI probe into the alleged funds scam,” Siddiqui said, asking deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi to at least follow the stand that his party had adopted in Odisha.

Replying to the debate which Siddiqui initiated, rural development minister Nitish Mishra said: “The CEFS has maliciously chosen Bihar to manipulate a false figure of scam at a time when chief minister Nitish Kumar has been earning accolades from economists and experts from across the world for his effective war against corruption and successful implementation of the schemes for the welfare of the poor.”

He said: “The CEFC has chosen only four non-Congress-ruled states — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Bihar — to carry out its survey, which proves its bias beyond all doubts.

Mishra said: “The NGO neither took care of the required methods and procedures to carry out such a survey, nor adopted the credible research tools to do it. For instance, it took samples from only 10 districts out of 38 and spoke to about 2,500 people against 1.25 crore MGNREGA job card holders in the state.”

The minister pointed out that the NGO, on the basis of the “perfunctorily collected” data, made an assumption that about Rs 6,000 crore had been misappropriated in the state.

Rejecting the minister’s plea, Siddiqui said: “Why the government is opposed to a CBI probe? After all, the fact will come out if the CBI probes. Even if the CEFS had carried out a malicious survey, the CBI might expose it in its probe.”

The minister, however, clarified how the government had adopted total transparency in the implementation of the MGNREGA in the state.

Unsatisfied with the minister’s reply, Siddiqui eventually led the noisy walkout of the Opposition.