MNREGA payments went to Bangladeshis; Bengal TMC panchayat leader under scan
The Murshidabad district administration in Bengal has investigated a unique case of government embezzlement in which at least Rs 7 lakhs were collected for beneficiaries of rural employment schemes under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 of Mahatma Gandhi (MNREGA) and some of the money was sent to people in Bangladesh, authorities said. Fake job cards were created to make the withdrawals.
The main prosecution is against the upa-pradhan (deputy head) of the Gurapashla gram panchayat, led by the Trinamool Congress, in the area of the Nabagram police station.
Samsul Arfin, the upa-pradhan, has been alleged to have made the false work cards for his relatives, 13 of whom are Bangladeshi citizens, authorities said.
Apparently, jobs were created in various areas by changing the names of the same beneficiaries and money was withdrawn from banks and post offices. ATM cards were also used to make withdrawals.
Officials said the former Nabagram Community Block Development Officer (BDO) completed an internal investigation based on a written complaint. The internal investigation concluded that Arfin and some members of the gram panchayat staff were involved in the alleged fraud.
The former BDO filed a police complaint against which a first information report (FIR) was recorded in December 2019. However, there has been no progress in the police investigation even though a year has passed.
HT has also seen the copy of the FIR, as well as the list of Bangladeshi citizens who received the money.
Authorities said that after the FIR was registered, Arfin applied for an advance bond from the Calcutta High Court. The court rejected the petition, but the defendant was not arrested, a senior district official said on condition of anonymity. Arfin could not be contacted despite several attempts.
Pankaj Das, the current Nabagram BDO, said: “After I joined the service, I learned that the former BDO completed the internal investigation and filed an FIR against the defendants in Nabagram PS under Sections 486,406,409,420 and 34 of the Penal Code of India “.
“It is up to the police to complete the investigation and take legal action. I cannot say why the police did not make any arrests, ”added Das.
Muslims comprise 66.28% of the population of Murshidabad, making it the highest of all the districts in Bengal. The district shares its eastern border with Bangladesh.
TMC’s district spokesman Apurba Sarkar said: “If the upa-pradhan is involved in the alleged misuse of government funds, the administration has the right to take legal action against him. We are not going to protect him ”.
Nabagram Bloc Congress Chairman Mir Badam Ali said: “Arfin embezzled government funds with the help of some staff members. Some of the beneficiaries are even minors. TMC leader helped Bangladeshi citizens earn money from a central government project ”.
No senior district police officer was willing to comment on the matter. An officer said on condition of anonymity that Arfin is on the run and will be arrested soon.