Mayawati crackdown on NREGS bungling eyewash: Congress

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 31, 2010 14:20 hrs

The Congress Wednesday termed the suspension of 22 officials by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for alleged bungling of funds meant for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) as an 'eyewash'.

The chief minister's move Tuesday night came after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi alleged there was bungling of NREGS funds.

Congress spokesman Subodh Srivastava said the suspensions were an 'eyewash' in view of the suspected huge volume of pilferage across the state.

'Each of the suspended officials were junior functionaries, and no action has been taken against any senior official without whose connivance or complicity the bungling could not have been accomplished,' pointed out Srivastava.

Rahul Gandhi had sought to pointedly draw the state government's attention to irregularities in Sultanpur, which covers his own Amethi parliamentary constituency. However, the state government found largescale bungling in four other districts as well - Gonda, Balrampur, Chitrakoot and Mahoba.

While a sum of Rs.1 crore was found to have been used out of NREGS funds in Gonda to purchase toys and calendars, a similar amount was devoted towards purchase of sub-standard tents and first-aid boxes in Balrampur. Likewise, as many as 700 digital cameras were purchased for about Rs.60 lakh in Chitrakoot and 247 steel cupboards were bought in Mahoba.

It was suspected that many of these purchases were made only on paper, as not more than 25 percent of the cameras and cupboards could be traced on physical verification, according to a departmental official.

Interestingly, the Uttar Pradesh government got into action only after the union rural development ministry asked for details of measures initiated by the state against reported irregularities in the implementation of NREGS here. The union ministry had sought personal appearance of the state Rural Development Principal Secretary Sri Krishna.

Rahul Gandhi said at a district level meeting on NREGS in Sultanpur on March 26 that the irregularities should be probed by a central agency in case the state failed to take appropriate steps.

State Rural Development Minister Daddu Prasad, however refused to give any credit to Rahul Gandhi for it. 'We initiated action into the matter because our chief minister told us to proceed; and even earlier we have got FIRs registered in 29 districts against as many as 60 gram pradhans (village heads) and 30 panchayat (village council) officers,' he said.