Bengal government scrambles to get ‘embezzled’ job funds
The Bengal government is leaving no stone unturned to recover funds misappropriated under 100 days’ job scheme as asked by the Centre as the state badly requires funds from Delhi for it.
lease of funds under MGNREGA or the 100 days’ job scheme was suspended by the Centre, citing misappropriation of funds, since April this year. As rural polls are scheduled for early next year, the state government is desperate to get the job scheme rolling for villagers Scraand central funds are key to it.
Sources in the state administration said that wherever central teams found cash irregularities, they gave clear instructions to recover misappropriated funds.
For example, Rs 6.12 lakh has to be recovered in South Dinajpur’s Sukhdevpur gram panchayat for two land development projects in which the central teams found funds were “misappropriated”.
Similarly, Rs 6.81 lakh have to be recovered in South Dinajpur’s Gangarampur gram panchayat for three land development projects.
“Not only in South Dinajpur, similar instructions have been sent to all the districts where misappropriation of funds have been reported by the central teams,” said a bureaucrat.
Sources also said the initiative to recover misappropriated funds has gained momentum since the Centre released funds for housing (PMAY) and rural roads (PMGSY), which were also suspended since April this year as names of the schemes had been changed in Bengal.
“The state government feels that funds under the 100 days’ job scheme can also come if the alleged misappropriated sums were somehow recovered. If the state can recover at least Rs 5 to Rs 10 crore, the Centre can release funds under the 100 days’ job scheme like it did under the PMAY and PMGSY,” said a source.
The state government is eager to get funds under the 100 days’ job scheme ahead of next year’s panchayat polls because ruling party Trinamul is being asked why villagers are not getting jobs.
“As the panchayats are the nodal agency for the scheme, and most rural bodies are run by the Trinamul, panchayat functionaries are facing questions. It is tough to make all villagers believe that Delhi is depriving them,” said a source.
The state government is so eager to get funds that gram panchayat officials have been given a target to recover money misappropriated under the scheme.
“In some districts, nirman sahayaks of gram panchayats, where misappropriation has been reported, were asked to recover more than Rs 1 lakh each. Some nirman sahayaks alleged they warned that if they fail, their salaries will be put on hold,” said a source.
Panchayat department sources said a bank account to deposit recovered money was also identified.
“The districts had been asked to submit recovered cash by November 30. The department will assess how much cash was recovered and decide on the next course of action,” said an official.