The Union Rural Development Ministry has served a notice on the Telangana government asking it to return ₹151.9 crore spent under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) on construction of fish/grain drying platforms, which is not permitted under the scheme.
A Central team carried out investigations in the State between June 9 to June 12 this year. The team visited Kamareddy, Nalgonda, Khammam, Jangaon and Hanumakonda districts. The team surveyed 12 gram panchayats in 10 blocks of the above five districts and carried out sample checks at 47 work sites.
Based on the team’s observations, a detailed report was sent to the State asking for clarifications. Following the State government’s clarifications, the total amount of recovery was reduced from ₹154.5 crore to 151.9 crore.
The Central team observed that the drying platforms were built under the name ‘construction of food grain storage building’, while no such building was found at the work site. A drying platform could not be considered a storage structure, the Central team said. Such platforms were constructed on individual beneficiary lands, it noted. This is not one of the 265 permissible works under the MGNREGS.
A total of 22,613 such platforms were constructed under the MGNREGS. The team found work on another 17,250 under way.
The Centre, in its notice, has threatened to take action against the State under Section 27 of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Section 27 empowers the Centre to give directions to the State for effective implementation of the Act. Invoking Section 27 clause 2 of the Act, the Centre can stop funds for any violations. Invoking the same provision, action was taken the West Bengal government earlier this year. The case remains unresolved.
Meanwhile, Rural Development Secretary Nagendra Nath Sinha dismissed the allegation that only Opposition-ruled States had been targeted. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Sinha said: “Between August and September this year, we have investigated ongoing works in 114 district on several counts including tallying the expenditure versus physical reality.”