CRIME WATCH: Babu booked for Rs 1 crore job fraud – BDO on the run held – civil serviceman becomes civil criminal in a culture of corruption, deserves severest criminal punishment possible or maybe public lynching instead ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
Aug. 13: A block development officer in South Dinajpur was arrested in adjoining Malda district this afternoon on charges of embezzling more than Rs 1 crore meant for a central rural job scheme.
The BDO of Harirampur, Suman Majhi, a West Bengal Civil Service officer of the 2004 batch and a resident of Garia in South 24-Parganas, was later handed over to South Dinajpur police. He had taken charge as Harirampur BDO about one-and-a-half years ago.
According to Malda superintendent of police Bhuban Mondal, cops from Harirampur had contacted their counterparts in Malda alleging that the BDO had misappropriated public money and was fleeing to Calcutta in a white car. The Malda police were also provided with the registration number of the car.
“The South Dinajpur police sought our help and we immediately alerted our police stations. The BDO’s car was spotted by a police team from Old Malda near Mangalbari on NH34 around 1pm. He was immediately taken into custody,” said Mondal.
According to the South Dinajpur police, Majhi had left Harirampur around 12 noon and was apprehended after he had travelled 40km by car.
The inspector-in-charge of Harirampur police station, Uday Majumdar, arrived in Malda late in the afternoon and took Majhi into custody. The BDO will be produced in a court at Buniyadpur in South Dinajpur tomorrow.
Ashok Banerjee, the district magistrate of South Dinajpur, said investigations so far had revealed that the BDO had issued 20 bearer cheques in fictitious names to draw money against false vouchers for projects that did not exist. “We have come to know this so far. The amount defalcated could be even higher,” Banerjee said.
Explaining how funds were disbursed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the district magistrate said the money to be paid to the beneficiaries was directly credited to the bank accounts of the job cardholders. “The BDO is the executive officer of the scheme in his block and is directly responsible for drawing up projects and executing them through panchayats,” Banerjee said.
He said the subdivisional officer of Gangarampur, Abhijit Bhattacharya, had also filed FIRs on July 21 against assistant project officer Narayan Chakrabarty, technical assistant Sujit Das, and sub-assistant engineer Moloy Sinha Roy, all posted in the same block. Since then, the trio has been absconding.
In Harirampur, nearly 22 complaints on projects under the NREGS had been filed with the district administration in the past few months. What nailed the BDO was an RTI application filed by the karmadhakshya of the Harirampur panchayat samiti, Rafiqul Islam of the CPM. Islam wanted to know about the projects, their implementation and their expenditure in the RTI application submitted before July to the SDO.
“The RTI reply showed many projects that were said to be implemented and funds disbursed, but there was no physical evidence of any work done. It was then that the karmadhakshya filed a complaint with the district magistrate, who instructed the subdivisional officer to inquire into the matter,” said IC Majumdar.
“We have investigated only a dozen of the complaints to uncover the current defalcation of over a crore. Let us see what the rest of the complaints throw up,” the district magistrate said. He said many of the complaints other than that of the karmadhakshya had been made by job cardholders, who alleged that several projects that were announced, had never been taken up.
“The BDO had planned large projects like road repairs and construction of large tanks, some of them worth around Rs 30 lakh. It is under these projects, which had not materialised, that the money was withdrawn,” Banerjee said.