During enquiry, Karuppan denies the charge

In a sudden volte-face, the Dalit president of Kottakatchiyendal Panchayat, V. Karuppan, who had complained that the caste Hindus members of the local body forced him to sit on the floor during meetings, has denied the charge of caste discrimination.

Virudhunagar Collector M. Balaji told The Hindu on Monday that Mr. Karuppan, during enquiry, said that only two villagers, who had nothing to do with the functioning of the reserved panchayat, had made casteist remarks against him. “We have booked both of them under the provisions of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.” Mr. Karuppan said that his issue with the panchayat members had been settled following the Collector's intervention.

“Dispute over sharing of funds”

“The complaint (made by Mr. Karuppan) has stemmed from dispute over sharing of funds misappropriated from the panchayat between the group supporting Mr. Karuppan and the one led by the vice-president, M. Uma Maheswari. The enquiry revealed that the president sat on the floor only along with all the members during the Grama Sabha meetings. Every one has to sit on the floor during the meetings. Even district Collectors sit on the floor along with the villagers,” Mr. Balaji said.

The Narikudi police on Sunday filed a case against the president, vice-president, panchayat secretary (clerk), M. Ravindran and a supporter of Mr. Karuppan, Tiruvettai, for siphoning off Rs.1.16 lakh from the panchayat by creating false records in implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme.

“The work was not taken up at all, they forged documents and took away the money,” the Collector said. When the Collector visited the village recently, he came to know about the issue.

“After the Project Officer, District Rural Development Agency, made an enquiry, the money was immediately deposited in the bank account,” he said.

The Collector said that the caste Hindu members of the panchayat and the villagers of Kottakatchiyendal said that they had not indulged in any discrimination against the president when he visited the village twice last week. The vice-president and other members claimed that they were targeted only because they made a complaint against the president on misappropriation of funds. A case has been registered against the vice-president, her husband, Marikannu and the panchayat secretary for having taken a cut of Rs.10 while distributing wages to the beneficiaries of the rural job guarantee scheme. Ravindran has been dismissed from the post of Panchayat secretary.

Similarly, the power to sign cheques has been withdrawn from the president and the vice-president. Block Development Officer P.S. Shanti has been asked to take care of the day-to-day activity of the panchayat.

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