Mrunal Manmay Dash

An RTI report has revealed startling corruption in the Block Agriculture office at Banapur under Khordha district in Odisha.

As per the report, 100 farmers visited district agriculture fair at Khordha in 2016 which was sponsored by Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), Khordha. However, the list of 100 farmers was allegedly filled with ghost farmers.

Ramesh Chandra Panda, son of Bhagirathi Panda from Nandapur village in the district is one such farmer whose name has a place in the list. But he denies visiting any such agriculture fair.

Speaking to OTV, Panda said, “I am always busy in farming. But I am not aware of any visit sponsored by the government, nor have I been ever taken to any agricultural fair in the group.”

There was something else too. Interestingly, the list of 100 farmers obtained by the RTI has one man, Bhagirathi Panda, and his 10 sons who have different surnames making them all Ramesh’s fake siblings, apparently. Ramesh denies having 10 siblings too.

Similarly, as per the RTI report, between September 7 and 11, 25 farmers from Khordha district made an exposure visit to Bolangir sponsored by the Agriculture Department in a bus (OD-02-J-7415) from Khordha. The travel agency was paid Rs 35,000 for 1250 km round trip. However, interestingly, the registration number of the bus provided in the RTI report belongs to a two-wheeler as revealed from the transport department website.

Even the travel agency named in the bill is a ghost agency and does not exist in reality, alleged the locals.

Laxmidhara Mohapatra, the RTI activist who had applied for the report, said, “When I received the report, I was dumbfounded. How on earth 25 people can ride a single bike and cover 1250kms? I enquired further and found out, there is no travel agency under the name mentioned in the RTI report.”

All this happened under Monalisha Mishra, the then Assistant Agriculture Officer (AAO) who served at Banapur block from September 19, 2016, till August 16, 2018. While she could not be contacted for comments, current AAO, Ajay Kumar Kar said, “I can’t say whether she swindled the money, but I will definitely inform this to my superiors.”

After all these RTI revelations, a Gaaon Sathi, Suresh Chandra Nayak claimed that he actually went to Bolangir in the bus. “I do not know about the RTI report, but I along with 30-40 farmers had gone to Bolangir in a bus,” he claimed.

(Reported by Shaktiprasad Mohapatra, OTV)