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Panchayats spurn grant for poorest of poor

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Krishnagar
  • Published 8.12.08
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Krishnagar, Dec. 7: Over 20 gram panchayats in Nadia have refused to take housing grants under the Indira Awaas Yojana saying the below-poverty-line list for the scheme’s beneficiaries is faulty.

Over 100 panchayats run by the Trinamul Congress or the Congress or jointly by the two had earlier refused to take the money. The Nadia administration persuaded 79 of them to accept the funds after a series of meetings last month.

However, 21 panchayats refused to budge from their stand, which means nearly 2,500 families that had applied for the funds will be deprived.

“These 21 gram panchayats will also not get any money under the scheme next year for failing to utilise what they had been sanctioned. The amount that they did not use will have to be returned to the Centre,” said district magistrate Onkar Singh Meena.

The amount that will go back to Delhi is yet to assessed, he added.

A person living below the poverty line is entitled to Rs 35,000 under the Indira Awaas Yojana for a new house. The money is sent to the gram panchayats every quarter, depending on each panchayat area’s requirement.

“In Nadia, the BPL list is faulty. The people who deserve the funds are not on the list. Instead, most of those on the list have concrete houses and television sets at home,” said Sunil Ghosh, the panchayat upapradhan of Gajna in Hanskhali. “We cannot accept such a list and let the wealthy get access to poor people’s money.”

Nadia got Rs 25 crore in September for about 11,000 families which wanted to build houses. Of the eight lakh families in rural Nadia, three lakh live below the poverty line, according to the government’s figures.

Tapas Singha Roy, the Trinamul pradhan of Gobindapur panchayat in Krishnagunj, said he had requested the administration to give money under the scheme to the 170 people he had identified as “needy”. “But the government is giving it only to the 40 people who figure on its list. Most of them don’t deserve the money.”

The Opposition parties had won 120 of the 187 Nadia gram panchayats in the May elections.

Meena said he had asked the pradhans to delete the names of those they felt were not eligible for the grant.

“The state government has recently empowered panchayats to delete names from the list of beneficiaries (of schemes) if they think they are not eligible. But panchayats are not allowed to add new names. The panchayats opposing the grant want to add new names. We told them that is not possible,” the district magistrate said.

Tapash Ghosh, the upapradhan of Hatra gram panchayat of Chapra, said his panchayat decided not to take the money as it believed it would not reach the deserving. “Therefore, we have decided not to apply for it. We may reconsider our decision if the government includes the names of the people who are really poor,” said the Congress leader.