Rashid Paul

Nearly 25% of money meant for IEC in Dept of RD&PR goes into minister’s personal promotion

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This is why govt’s welfare schemes look good on paper only…

Srinagar, Jul 15: It happens only in Kashmir – of around Rs 42 crore allocated to the J&K’s Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (RD&PR) for Information Education Communication (IEC) activities, almost Rs nine crore have been spent by the department on the “personal publicity” of the former minister in-charge.

According to sources, Rs 42 crores were granted by the Central government to the state’s RD&PR department during the financial year 2017-18 for IEC activities for generating awareness about its various schemes and programmes.

“The money has gone haywire. Instead sizable amount of Rs nine crore was spent on the personal publicity of the then minister in-charge Abdul Haq Khan,” sources in the department said.

A senior officer, wishing not to be named, said that the money was spent in breach of the mandate of the IEC, besides throwing to winds the procedural and financial conduct.

Under IEC, the department was supposed to invite bids from credible communication firms and work with individuals and communities so as to promote appropriate response for different programmes and schemes meant for rural societies in J&K.

However, favored persons, including relatives, “faithful political supporters” and acquaintances of the minister were allegedly roped in to rob the money like a “war booty’, the officials divulged.

Instead of following the guidelines, hoardings worth Rs nine cores were claimed to have been installed by this coterie of the minister with full participation of the compliant and corrupt officials of the department, the sources said.

The department had an allocation Rs 2,863 during the previous fiscal out of which Rs 490 crore was budgeted to be spent on asset and job creation under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

However, the department has become a center of wholesale corruption and loot of public money, said an expert associated with the evaluation of the schemes on rural development in the state.

At a number of places workers under MGNREGA are yet to receive their wages for the works done in rural areas years ago.

“I was provided a few man-days of work under MNREGA, but the remuneration at a worthless rate of rupees 187 a day is yet to be received by me despite the lapse of a year,” said Abdul Aziz, a job-card holder from Rajwar block of the Kupwara district.

Official figures say that 12.35 lakh job cards have been issued in the state so far to provide 100 work days to the holders a year.

While the Act guarantees right to work and enhances livelihood security of the rural people, evaluators say fake job cards have been created and the payments are thus funneled in to the pockets of the officials and influential people in the rural communities.

In December 2016, after proper tendering, the department engaged some film production units to produce documentary films for it in Kupwara, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Bandipora and other districts. But despite having done the films, the makers are yet to receive their “genuine payments”, said a film-maker who has been associated with it.

Acknowledging the hoardings scam in the department, Secretary RD&PR, Sheetal Nanda told ‘Kashmir Images’ that the matter is under investigation and all the facts will come to fore once the investigation is complete.

The Secretary, however,  steered clear of divulging details into the alleged wholesale frauds in the department, especially those relating to the MGNREGA, saying “I have only recently joined the department”.

“Every job card will be connected to the Aadhar, the 12 digit unique identity numbers, of the card holders,” she added.

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