The misappropriation of Rs.2.88 crore of the National Rural Employment Generation Scheme (NREGS) funds under the Coffee Project in Pedabayalu mandal of the Agency area in the district and suspension of a few officials is only the tip of the iceberg. The total amount misappropriated is estimated to be to the order of Rs.34 crore. While the embezzlement of funds has been established through a social audit in Pedabayalu mandal alone, the misappropriation has also occurred in all the 11 mandals in the Agency, according to a survey conducted by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI(M)). The suspended officials include the former Mandal Parishad Development Officer of Pedabayalu and the Assistant Project Manager of Indira Kranthi Padhakam (IKP) and Assistant Project Officer of NREGS.

The funds were meant for distribution to tribal farmers, for the work done by them in raising coffee plantations as part of the coffee extension project. The innocent tribal people were made to put their finger prints and forced to take whatever they were paid.

A glance through the payment order of the NREGS reveals the overlapping of thumb impressions of the beneficiaries. This is because the space provided for putting a single thumb impression would occupy three boxes provided in the form. Some of the beneficiaries had signed their names in Telugu, while at other places their thumb impressions were taken.

As if to make up for the lack of space, the impressions of the tip of the thumb were taken in some of the payment orders of NREGS. The Additional Project Manager of the IKP, Paderu, noted in his inquiry report, submitted to the ITDA Project Officer in December, 2012, that the thumb impressions of 51 beneficiaries appear to have been put by one individual and the same was put in different styles.

“We were agitating for payment of arrears to the coffee farmers involved in the extension work in August 2012 when we detected the fraud after verifying the ‘Rythu cards’ issued to the farmers. We met the beneficiaries in various habitations and found that their fingerprints were also forged,” CPI (M) Paderu Division secretary M. Suryanarayana told The Hindu during a recent visit to Paderu. “In the last six months social audit has been done only two of the 11 mandals in the Agency. Arrears to the tune of Rs.28 lakh was distributed to the beneficiaries in Pedabayalu mandal alone. We demand conduct of simultaneous audits in all the remaining mandals so that justice could be done to the victims faster,” says CPI (M) State secretariat member Ch. Narasinga Rao.

“An attempt has already been made to burn the records and we retrieved the half-burnt records and handed them over to the authorities concerned. Delays can only help in such cover up operations,” feels Mr. Suryanarayana.

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