Handover rural job scam probe to CBI: Oppn

Bhubaneswar: Opposition parties on Wednesday asked the state government to hand over the investigation into the rural job scam under MGNREGA to CBI before the Supreme Court issues a direction to that effect as the Panchayati Raj Minister admitted diversion of funds in the scheme.

"As the corruption is totally exposed, it is better to hand over the probe to CBI before the Supreme Court issues an order to that effect," Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh said in a debate after moving an adjournment motion on the issue.

Stating that the state government should not delay handing over the matter to CBI at least for the honour of the state, he said five independent bodies had found rampant corruption in the implementation of the rural job scheme.

"About Rs 500 crore from Rs 733 crore given to Orissa for NREGS in 2006-07 were misappropriated," Congress MLA N K Das said while initiating the debate.

Instead of punishing the officials involved in the corruption, the state government had given promotion to tainted persons, Das alleged citing some instances.

Denying corruption in the rural job scheme, Panchayati Raj Minister Prafulla Samal said there was no need for investigation by any agency, including, CBI as the state government had been taking action wherever irregularities in implementation were identified.

"However, the state government will abide by the Supreme Court`s order, if any, in the matter of MGNREGS irregularities," Samal said admitting funds worth Rs 3.67 crore were diverted from rural job scheme to pension for old age persons.

The state government had issued direction to officials concerned not to divert funds from MGNREGS for any other purpose after the Supreme Court direction, Samal said.

Stating that at least 88 cases relating to MGNREGS work were registered against 205 persons in the state, he said this showed the state government`s effort for brining transparency in the scheme.

Orissa Government had so far spent Rs 4429.30 crore of the total Rs 4594.53 crore it received under MGNREGS, Samal said adding 69,04,403 families had been provided with work.

BJP-supported independent MLA Pratap Sarangi demanded formation of a House Committee to look into the corruption in the rural job scheme as well as a CBI probe into the matter.

The Supreme Court had, while hearing a public interest litigation filed in 2007 by the Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS), earlier asked the central government to decide on ordering a CBI probe into the irregularities in the rural job guarantee scheme in four weeks, failing which it would step in.

CEFS, an NGO, conducted a survey in 100 villages of Orissa`s six districts. "About Rs 500 of Rs 733 crore released in 2006-07 under NREGS were either embezzled or diverted," CEFS had stated in its PIL.