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‘Errant’ officials: HC pulls up State for inaction

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Funds for ST welfare allegedly siphoned off

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday pulled up the Maharashtra government for not taking action against 123 officers who allegedly misappropriated funds allotted for the welfare of the State’s Scheduled Tribes.

A Division Bench of Justices S.C. Dharmadhikari and R.I. Chagla was hearing four public interest litigations (PILs) filed in 2012, one of them by Bahiram Motiram, an adivasi from Nashik.

The PILs allege that various schemes by the State and Central governments meant for the benefit of Scheduled Tribes do not reach them and that huge sums of money have been misappropriated.

The PILs say the provision of 9% is yet to be made in the yearly budget for the Tribal Development Department and the State is yet to establish 24 project offices in tribal areas to implement the schemes.

On April 15, 2014, the HC had appointed retired Justice M.G. Gaikwad to conduct an inquiry into corruption in the department.

On January 31, 2017, he filed a report that said criminal prosecution and departmental inquiries should be initiated against 123 errant officers and staff members.

As per the HC’s directions, Manisha Verma, principal secretary of Tribal Development Department, filed an affidavit that reads, “No official of [the department] has been arrested and placed under police custody for more than 48 hours and hence, the question of suspending any official does not arise.” The 14-page affidavit also said, “None of the officials who were officiating the posts where irregularities have taken place are currently working in the same posts (sic).”

The court, however, said, “All this is just eyewash. Does the principal secretary seriously want us to accept such an affidavit where she is saying she is unable to get information from the police? If the police were not forthcoming with the information, then what stopped the principal secretary from raising the issue with the State Home Department? The State government is shielding and protecting the prima facie guilty officials. Political parties at the helm of affairs are changing but they will still protect their fraternity. They help each other because today’s principal secretary will be tomorrow’s ex-principal secretary and may need help from the current one.”

The court has directed Ms. Verma to be present in court on January 17 to explain her affidavit.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 10:44:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/errant-officials-hc-pulls-up-state-for-inaction/article30518560.ece

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