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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: The State Cooperative Societies department has come under severe criticism for ordering an investigation into financial irregularities and then suspending the same order a year later. While the actual reason is yet to be known, the Opposition parties lashed out at the ruling-BJD for such 'double standards' and allegedly deviating from its 'Zero Tolerance' policy.

Rabindra Sandha, a farmer from Gurudijhatia in Athagarh, had availed loan twice from the Cooperative Society Bank- Rs 12000 for the first time and again lent Rs 7000. However, his passbook mentions that he had taken a sum of Rs 2.34 lakh. Following this gross mismatch, the Secretary of the Cooperative Societies was accused of embezzling funds to the tune of lakhs.

Not one or two, as many as 26 such Co-op Societies in Athagarh have allegedly embezzled crores of funds. Being a victim of such alleged irregularities in cooperative bank loans, some farmers had attempted self-immolation outside Assembly building a few days back.

“We were asked to sign cheques with a promise that loans would be waived off. But some persons fraudulently took loans from the Cooperative Bank in our names," alleged a farmer.

The scenario is no different in several other Cooperative Societies across the State.


In September 2019, Registrar of the Cooperative Societies had issued an order to all Divisional Deputy Registrar and circle Assistant Registrar of Cooperative societies seeking disciplinary action against the Secretary and other employees of the PACS/LAMPS/FSCS. "Due to financial irregularities, misappropriation, negligence and unlawful activities of a few Secretaries and other employees of PACS/LAMPS/FSCS/Bank, the farmer members of these Societies are facing harassment and not getting the services properly. This is embarrassing for the government. It is also seen in certain cases the Secretaries are forced to remain at the mercy of the President and Management," the September order stated.

Exactly after 16 months, on the 15th of January 2021, Cooperative Societies issued another letter stating that the order dated September 30, 2019, regarding disciplinary action against Secretary and other employees, is kept in abeyance until further orders, taking into account the provisions of The Odisha Cooperative Societies Act 1962, and The Odisha Cooperative Societies Rules 1965 and instructions issued by the Odisha government in Cooperation Department from time to time.

Seeking an investigation and again keeping the orders in abeyance has given the Opposition BJP and Congress another chance to come down heavily on the Naveen-led government over its stance with regard to corruption and the implementation of 'Zero Tolerance' policy.

"Why was the September order kept in abeyance? This just shows that the government is encouraging corruption. This is not double standard, but even worse than that," Prithviraj Harichandan BJP General Secretary alleged.

"The government should initiate an investigation and take necessary action against the officials of the Cooperative Societies. This shows the double standard attitude of the government. I will personally ask minister Ranendra Swain on the misappropriation and the suspension of orders, said Suresh Routry Congress MLA.

Asked, BJD MLA Snehangini Chhuria denied commenting on the issue.

Reports suggest that there could be one or more reasons behind this sudden move. There are allegations that the department is succumbing to pressure from higher-ups due to direct involvement of the minister's brother and several other ruling party leaders which is why it has suspended investigation process. It is also being alleged that the decision was made keeping in view the upcoming Cooperative Societies election.

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