Crooked running of MGNREGA in Jharkhand may just be tip of the iceberg. Its Rural Development Dept has indulged in mega corruption under the Scheme—”excavators replaced labourers, work only on paper, and attempts to hoodwink auditors with fake pictures,” in Chatra district’s Pratappur block at a cost of Rs 25 lakh, as per NREGA Watch report! Probe into 7 completed jobs — building dirt road/digging six ponds revealed the road was missing even as Rs 46,000 was paid for in 2013 and ponds, in 2018-19, were dug using machines, instead of manual labour. The MGNREGA Additional Commissioner has terminated contracts of all 14 persons involved and ordered recovery of misappropriated amount with 12% interest. It comes out that though real labourers were paid, government money was being siphoned off through ‘fake labourers on muster roll’, or that ‘excavators used in digging an irrigation well costing Rs 3.81 lakh and muster roll was not generated’! While new audit rules are being applied, there is need for extra vigil given that 3 schemes are launched to provide work for 5 lakh migrant workers having returned. Other State governments need to follow Ranchi as it’s certain they too would have skeletons in their cupboards.
Gujarat Seat Politics
It’s the season for poaching and desertions in Gujarat. Election to four Rajya Sabha seats is due on 19 June. The Congress, already smarting with five of its MLAs having resigned in March bringing its tally to 68, suffered another blow on Thursday last. Two MLAs, if not three, have quit the party putting a big question mark in the grand old party’s plans to win two of the four seats. Odd as it may sound, the Congress may have expected something like this, as the BJP can poach on members in other States, Gujarat is home ground. The State leaders got into damage control and but efforts to contact the MLAs came to a naught. Worse, it is feared a third is on its way out too. The saffron party’s strength is 103 in the House and can win two seats, and rival Congress, left with 68 MLAs, was hopeful of getting the other two. However, with its numbers reducing further, it’s going to be very tough and with near two weeks more to go there could be many a slip between the cup and the lip.
Uttarakhand’s Uncared Centres
Quarantine centres in villages of Uttarakhand have caught the High Court’s attention. Noting these are the “worst of the lot” with pitiable condition and “extremely poor” hygienic condition of toilets, the two-judge bench on Tuesday last asked authorities in four districts – Dehradun, Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar, Haridwar to personally visit these and file reports. This follows reports of District Legal Service Authorities who were asked by the court to inspect these centres and file reports. It was found the centres functioning in Government Primary Schools/ Secondary Schools had ‘no facilities to provide food to inmates, instead it’s being provided by villagers and inmates’ family members; only 1-2 toilets were in centres with over 20-30 inmates; worse most were not clean… Shockingly, the court found Gram Sabhas to be cash strapped despite a May 4 Government order, wherein District Magistrates were asked to coordinate with Gram Sabhas and Pradhans and allot them funds to ensure these centres were run properly! The question to be asked is did the DMs follow orders? Did they provide the funds? The authorities’ reports as directed must shed light and have answers.
AP Clever by Half!
Andhra Pradesh government of Jaganmohan Reddy has had to eat crow. The Supreme Court on Wednesday last, directed it remove the colours of the ruling YSR Congress painted on Gram Panchayat buildings in the State within 4 weeks, upholding the AP High Court order. It was firm that HC’s 10 March order didn’t warrant interference as there is no ambiguity i.e. any colour which is similar to the flag of any political party shouldn’t be used for painting those buildings. And while the government has been given more time to comply with the order (HC had given 10 days and another 3 weeks), it couldn’t upstage the court as tried. The Chief Secretary drew up a fresh set of guidelines on colour combination on April 23 as directed by the HC, but as these still didn’t comply with the court’s order, the HC initiated contempt proceedings. While these were disposed of by the SC, the government will do well to remember the phrase ‘too clever by half’. It doesn’t pay off!
Is a rapprochement in the offing between the Heads of State and Government in West Bengal? So it’s hoped after Governor Dhankar dialled Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday last, over the contentious appointment of Burdwan University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Raj Bhavan wants to “put a lid on the controversy”, wherein Dhankar, who is Chancellor of State universities and Didi had appointed different candidates for the coveted post. Citing reasons of the State ‘going through a crisis’ and ‘to contain the situation in interest of education’, the Governor appears to have relented leaving ‘the call to the Chief Minister’. If that actually being the case, the appointment of Prof Goutam Chandra as Pro-VC by Dhankar shall go into cold storage and Didi’s candidate Ashis Panigrahi will come out as the winner. Be that as it may, the canvass is wider. What lies in the future? Should Didi see better times ahead as Dhakar went to the extent saying she should use her judgment and discretion to find a way out and “also have a mechanism in place so such issues do not arise in future. I wish to close this unfortunate chapter…” Is there a healing touch?
Death of an Elephant
The death of a pregnant elephant in God’s own country has become a political hot potato. Centre and Vijayan government are engaged in veiled charges. Apparently, the elephant strayed into a village in Palakkad district, Kerala last week, ate a ‘pineapple filled with firecrackers’, which exploded in its mouth and it walked for days in pain before going into a river, where it died standing on 27 May. A video went viral on social media. Environment Minister Javadekar shot off a letter to Chief Secretary saying the Ministry takes note of it with ‘utmost concern especially as it happened in a state which reveres elephants… the incident is even more brutal and inhumane as the elephant was pregnant.” Plus, tweets on Thursday last: “…This is not an Indian culture to feed fire crackers and kill.” Vijayan responds saying 3 culprits are suspected and they will be brought to justice, but shares more anguish. “We are saddened by the fact some have used this tragedy to unleash a hate campaign (against the State). Lies built upon inaccurate descriptions and half truths were employed to obliterate the truth. Some even tried to import bigotry into the narrative. Wrong priorities”. Indeed, in the times of Corona! —INFA