Thiruvananthapuram

VACB finds graft in land purchase fund disbursal

Representational image.

Representational image.  

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SC/ST development offices of local bodies in State inspected

The subsidies and grants meant for the landless, homeless and needy among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State are easily usurped by well-heeled persons with the tacit help of corrupt local body officials, according to the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB).

The VACB flagged the startling nepotism and graft in SC/ST development offices in municipalities and block panchayats after the agency wound up a State-wide surprise inspection code-named ‘Operation Rights’ on Friday.

The offices illegally diverted funds, meant for landless persons to purchase housing plots, to ineligible persons.

Similar diversion

The agency also noted similar diversion of housing funds for SC/STs with smallholdings.

Investigators said the money allotted for SC/ST students to construct study rooms rarely reached the eligible. The government offered up to ₹6 lakh to landless SC/STs to buy housing plots.

It also offered a grant of ₹4 lakh to those seeking to build houses in the land they already owned.

Officials said SC/ST development officers often operated under a cloak of secrecy.

They were empowered to select beneficiaries based on reports submitted by local bodies and the LIFE Mission. However, investigators said the selection process appeared opaque.

And many ineligible persons had benefited from the State welfare targeted at the marginalised communities that had faced centuries of oppression and deprivation.

They somehow seemed to get revenue documents proving caste and attestations by village officers to grab the subsidies.

The agency found many such depositions submitted for getting the grant to be false.

Investigators said SC/ST development officers often mired genuine applicants in red-tape and stonewalled their application for benefits citing various rules. They rarely published the list of beneficiaries or applicants at offices or on the government websites.

For instance, in Kollam, the SC/ST development officer had allotted money for the purchase of housing plots to persons who had already benefited from a similar scheme in 2011.

Without vetting

The officer had accepted the applications without vetting them and disbursed funds without question possibly at the behest of local ruling front politicians. The same pattern was seen repeated in other districts.

Director-General Anil Kant ordered the inspections.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 4:00:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/vacb-finds-graft-in-land-purchase-fund-disbursal/article30538162.ece

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