How multi-crore sapling scam took root in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: At a time when the state government and the Opposition are at loggerheads over allegations of irregularities in sapling and plantation schemes leveled by former minister and expelled BJD leader Damodar Rout, OTV investigated the circumstances under which the scam was clandestinely executed by none other than government officials.

MGNREGA reports claim that in the last 3 years, the state government has released around Rs 585.74 crore to all the 30 districts for sapling plantation.

But according to OTV investigation, government babus in several districts have misappropriated crores of rupees in the name of farmers under the scheme.

Mayurbhanj district is a glaring example of this blatant corruption where sources indicate diversion of funds to the tune of Rs 18 crore.

Consider the example of Deepak Mishra and 16 other farmers of Nuagaon block who had planted mango and banana trees on their 11-acre land. Due to unavailability of fencing and water sprinkling facilities from the government, their farmlands have now turned into dry patches of land.

Similarly in Nishinta village, sapling plantations were done at a cost of Rs 20 lakh, but the situation is completely different now after nearly two years. The field is now a piece of barren land with no traces of any trees.

Locals have alleged that not only misappropriation in sapling plantations, but several labourers who worked during the plantation projects also did not get their dues often.

OTV investigation also revealed that misappropriation was also meticulously done in pen and paper. At some places, attendance of hundreds of fake labourers was prepared by data programmers. The ringleader is claimed to be none other than Dharanidhar Patra, the then assistant deputy director of Horticulture department, Mayurbhanj.

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Asked about the irregularities, Patra however declined to comment.

However, Bijay Ketan Upadhaya, Director, Horticulture department said, “After a committee comprising audit officials, joint director among others found financial irregularities in the project. Some officials were suspended while draft proceedings against some others is underway.”