In a major embarrassment for the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka, a major scam of Rs. 410 crores has been unearthed. The scam has been unearthed in the implementation of the rural job scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). The scheme provides 100 days of employment to the unskilled labourers in rural areas at a payment of Rs. 236 for every day of work. Those who are covered under this scheme are engaged in the creation of various rural assets. However, the scheme had been susceptible to ghost payment and workdays and it seems now the same issue has come up again. It has been reported that Karnataka is banking heavily on this scheme in order to mitigate the effects of drought. However, a social audit was carried out which flagged irregularities amounting to Rs 410 crore this year.
The irregularities include payments for work not done, payments in excess of work done, double payments and payments in excess of the bill amount. The audit looked into MNREGA in 467 Gram Panchayats across the state of Karnataka. More than 92,000 cases of irregularities were flagged in the audit. The audit confirmed the leakages worth Rs 37.68 crore. Apart from this, Rs. 373 crore has been put on hold due to audit objections. In the case of leakages, the Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) or junior engineers who certified the work are now required to pay up. The audit has also suggested the recovery of Rs. 113 crore on account of irregular payments over the last five years.
The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) Minister said about the findings of the audit that all works under the scheme have to be geo-tagged and photographs uploaded in order to verify that the work has actually been done. He added, “But when you’re doing such a large and diverse programme where millions of works are going on, there may be a few (leaks) here and there.” He further said, “While we don’t want leaks or misuse, we also don’t want to stifle the system.” This comment by the minister seems quite casual and insensitive. Instead of being apologetic or embarrassed by the fact that such a scam has been unearthed, he seems to be offering a bizarre explanation for the same. It is also flummoxing that such major leakages are only a “few (leaks) here and there”. This shows the casual and insensitive nature of the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka and its soft attitude towards corruption.
What is even more embarrassing for the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition in the state is the fact that the highest number of irregularities have been unearthed in Ramanagaram district, where Channapatna and Kanakapura taluks have been declared drought-hit. Kanakapura is represented by the Water Resources Minister and Congress heavyweight in the state, D.K. Shivakumar while Channapatna is represented by CM H.D. Kumaraswamy. The fact that constituencies of the CM and one of the prominent Congress leaders are the centres of this major scam has left the coalition government in the state red-faced. Shivakumar happens to be the leader who had come to the rescue of the coalition before the trust vote in Karnataka assembly after elections this year. The fact that these major leaders in the coalition might now face questions over irregularities in their constituencies could put the coalition government in Karnataka in a tight spot in the days to come.
Get real time updates about our posts directly on your device