In Gujarat, e-literate paanwala googles NREGS, stumbles on Rs 1-crore scam

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  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    In Gujarat, e-literate paanwala googles NREGS, stumbles on Rs 1-crore scam

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    A newly e-literate village paanwala's obsession with Google has blown the lid off a unique NREGS scam in Porbandar. The motley bunch of beneficiaries include affluent NRIs, doctors, government officials, teachers and well-off farmers — all shown as unemployed village labourers holding NREGS job cards. So far, the money siphoned off comes to nearly Rs 1 crore.

    On paper, there are 963 NREGS job cardholders at Kotda village in Kutiyana taluka of Porbandar district. Records show they have been paid over Rs 95 lakh for their 'labour' over the past three years. In reality though, none of them have ever dug wells or built roads in their lives or actually received any money for the same under NREGS or otherwise.

    The scam came to light after Aslam Khokhar (37), a Class X dropout and a paan shop owner in Kutiyana learnt how to use computers and searched NREGS on Google. "I was thrilled to find every detail of NREGS work in our area on the website. But I then came across the job card of a friend, who is a government employee.

    I searched and found there are doctors, teachers and NRIs I personally know in the village, listed as 'labourers' on the site," said Khokar.

    Veja Modedara, an independent councillor at Kutiyana taluka panchayat, and Congress worker like Bhanukant Odedara soon joined hands with Khokhar. The trio conducted door-to-door meetings with villagers named in the website and found they had neither worked on any NREGS site nor received any wages.

    Several like Bharat Ganga (23), who has been to Muscat for the past three years, were shocked to learn that they were named as NREGS employees on record and have been even paid for their work. "How can this be? I moved out of India three years ago," Ganga told The Indian Express.

    Varu Karsan Uka (38), an official with the Pashcim Gujarat Vij Company Limited for 15 years also holds the job card number GJ-21-005-030-001/726. Even his wife has been also named as a card holding labourer. According to the records, the couple had built roads and dug wells for 60 days and received Rs 6,000 for their work. "How can I possibly get an NREGS job card when I am a state government official ?" said Uka.

    Dr Dayaram Babhania (58), a well-known physician in Kutiyana too holds a job card (number GJ-21-005-030-001/526), though he admits never to have lifted a pickaxe in his entire life.

    Other like him on the list are Range Forest Officer Jesa Odedara, Forest Guard Arshi Bhattu, Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) employees Meru Odedara and Arjan Odedara, teacher Leela Dasa, Ex-serviceman Kunti Rama and NRIs Haja Modha, who have long left the village and settled in Israel. On paper, all are 'labourers' and many have been paid too.

    Kutiyana Sub-Inspector I Damor said the police probe will take a while since details of all the 963 accounts need to be verified.

    Kutiyana Taluka Development Officer J Gamit said, "Preliminary investigation by the department has revealed that at least 73 cardholders are government employees, professionals or NRIs."

    District Development Officer K D Bhatt said: "We will begin a door-to-door survey to find the exact scale of the scam."
     
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