14 Sep 2008, 0302 hrs IST, Prafulla Marpakwar,TNN
MUMBAI: Embarrassed by the facts revealed by the RTI query, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on Saturday ordered a high-level inquiry into the multi-crore scam in the PM’s and CM’s relief package meant to help poor and bereaved families of farmers who committed suicide in the Vidarbha region.
Gopal Reddy, the director of the V P Naik Mission for Farmers, will be in charge of the probe. “Deshmukh has asked for a comprehensive information on the beneficiaries of the special package for the entire Vidarbha region. Once we get the details, we will decide on the course of action to be taken against those who have wrongfully helped themselves to the relief measures,” a top official told TOI.
Yavatmal-based activist Vilas Wankhede on Friday alleged that while selecting beneficiaries for the package, there was blatant violation of rules, as a result of which, cattle was distributed among non-eligible, well-off people, including prominent politicians from the district, home town of the new MPCC president, Manikrao Thakre.
A month ago, when Wankhede had submitted an application under the RTI Act, he was told that relatives of former MP Uttamrao Patil, former minister Shivajirao Moghe, Digras legislator Sanjay Deshmukh and cattle supplier Amol Kshirsagar were provided with cows though they were not eligible for it.
According to the state government and PMO rule, only families of farmers who had killed themselves and BPL residents of the region are eligible for assistance under the multi-crore relief package. A preliminary probe revealed that the cattle was distributed during the tenure of Harshadeep Kamble, who was then the collector of Yavatmal.
According to the guidelines, the beneficiaries are selected by a four-member committee, which is headed by the collector. All applications for assistance under the relief package are presented before the panel by tehsildars or revenue officials and after scrutiny, the committee selects the beneficiaries. “From the RTI data, it appears that the committee did not verify the credentials of the applicants,” the official said.
“Prima facie, it appears that there was lack of seriousness among the babus posted in the Vidarbha region. As a result, despite adequate budgetary provision and special economic packages, the results were not visible,” a senior Congress minister from Vidarbha said.
He added that the bureaucrats had successfully failed all efforts made by the chief minister to tackle the agrarian crisis.
“No officer wants to complete his tenure in any of the Vidarbha districts. Unfortunately, Deshmukh had taken a very lenient view of the casual approach of the bureaucrats. Now we will have to take stern action against the erring officials or else we will have to pay a heavy price during the coming elections,” the minister said.