Tripura government assured stern action against an NGO that enrolled ordinary housewives as sex workers to manipulate fund meant for AIDS campaign. Action Aid, based in Kailashahar of north Tripura, allegedly embezzled lakhs of rupees through Targeted Interventions (TI) programme designed to reach out high risk HIV/AIDS groups.

“We would conduct a thorough investigation. Whoever responsible for misconduct would face action”, Tripura health minister Tapan Chakraborty said in ongoing session of state assembly. He stated a few officials who ‘connived’ with the NGO would also face action if found guilty in the enquiry.

Minister reacted after Congress MLA from Kailashahar constituency Birajit Sinha raised the issue demanding a statement from the minister. Mr. Sinha alleged that officials of Tripura AIDS Control Society (TACS) were directly involved in the scam.

“I am surprised that no action has so far been taken against the culprits. People of my area are very much annoyed with the government”, Mr Sinha told The Hindu on Saturday.

Action Aid is one of 14 empanelled NGOs of the TACS engaged in TI programme. Each of them is running five centres in areas of responsibility.

Action Aid, which copied name of an international organisation, is facing ire for falsely showing housewives hailing tea workers and minority groups as sex workers to fulfil criteria. “This organisation first conducted health camps and collected blood samples on false plea of malaria detection exercise”, Mr. Birajit Sinha claimed.

Name of housewives were registered as sex workers without their knowledge and processed to secure fund from the TACS in league with some corrupt officials. The fund for TI campaign originated from the central government, a health department official stated.

“If 14 NGOs manipulated same way than number of sex workers in Tripura stands at 42 thousand, which is absurd”, Mr Sinha added. Official record shows less than one hundred sex workers in the State.

The five times MLA from Kailashahar said they would take to the streets if punitive action was not taken immediately against the erring NGO and TACS officials.

ActionAid clarifies

ActionAid India (www.actionaid.org/india) has clarified that it has nothing to do with the NGO in Tripura that has used its name and allegedly indulged in manipulation of records for the purpose of collecting funds. "ActionAid takes great pride in its transparency and accountability that it holds as a key value in its mission to alleviate poverty," according to Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid India.