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Man can’t live by bread and shelter alone

- BPL families buy ornaments for daughters’ marriage with cash meant for housing scheme
The hut of one of the beneficiaries in Chandrakona who did not utilise funds under the Indira Awas Yojana to build a pucca house. Picture by Samir Mondal

Midnapore, Jan. 2: Several below-poverty-line families in West Midnapore have allegedly bought ornaments for their daughters’ marriage with money they received under the Indira Awaas Yojana to build concrete houses.

The block development officer (BDO) of Chandrakona I, who has lodged an FIR, said 14 families had not collected their second instalment after receiving the first in 2010.

When BDO Surajit Bhar, who joined the post in August last year, visited the areas where the families live, he found they had not constructed the concrete houses and were still living in thatched-roof huts.

“A case has been started under Sections 406 (breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code. If the charges are established, the guilty will face a maximum punishment of seven years in jail,” said an officer of Chandrakona police station.

Bhar said that after taking charge, he found that several lakhs of rupees sanctioned under the Indira Awaas Yojana were lying unutilised.

“The fourteen families never turned up to claim their second instalment even though three years had passed since they received the first tranche,” he said.

“We are under tremendous pressure to utilise the funds at the earliest. I visited the houses of these beneficiaries and found to my dismay that none of them had invested the money in building pucca houses,” the BDO added.

Bhar brought the matter to the notice of the district magistrate before lodging the FIR on December 20.

Sources in the district administration said that in the 2010-11 financial year, funds under the housing scheme had been sanctioned to 150 BPL cardholders in Chandrakona I. At that time, each beneficiary used to receive Rs 45,000. Although the amount has been increased to Rs 75,000, these beneficiaries will receive the earlier sum as they had applied before the rise.

Each of the 150 beneficiaries had received Rs 22,500 as the first instalment in 2010.

One of the accused, 30-year-old homemaker Beauty Singha of Dingapur village, said: “The mason had told me that he would charge Rs 70,000 to construct a concrete house. My husband earns Rs 2,500 a month as a day labourer. We could not have arranged for the remaining cash. On top of that, we had to get our daughter married this year and needed to buy ornaments. So we used the money we received under the housing scheme to buy ornaments.”

Pratima Roy, 45, a resident of Nichna village who lives in a mud house with an asbestos roof, said she had used the money to buy furniture.

“I have also bought an almirah. We needed these items for years but could not afford them,” said Pratima, whose husband is a labourer.

The Trinamul sabhapati of the Chandrakona panchayat samiti, Sambhu Nayek, alleged that when the CPM was in charge of the rural body, many “undeserving persons” had received funds under the scheme. “Those loyal to the party had been included in the list of beneficiaries even though they did not belong to the BPL category,” he said.

The previous sabhapati, Harekrishna Nayek of the CPM, denied the charge. “The recommendations were made on the basis of applications sent by BPL cardholders. How can you blame us if the recipients didn’t use funds for the purpose it had been sanctioned?” he said.

Rural bodies prepare lists of beneficiaries and send them to BDOs for disbursal of the funds.