If payment vouchers from the forest department are anything to go by, not only are the dead turning up to engage in soil conservation, trench digging and related works in Bhandara division, but they are also being paid lakhs in public money.
Bhandara range forest officer (RFO) Sanjay Meshram, who was suspended last month, has exposed an alleged scam in the department wherein fake payment vouchers are allegedly being created for plantation works in the division. In a complaint to Bhandara deputy conservator of forests (DyCF) Umesh Verma on Friday, Meshram has pointed to two vouchers, totalling over 4 lakh, in which the list of people who have received money for plantation works in 2015 includes the name of two men who died in 1996 and 2014.
While Meshram has been suspended, round officer W R Khan of Koka, who was allegedly involved in the scam, has been given additional charge of his post.
According to papers in possession of TOI, work on mixed plantations was taken up in 2015 in a 15-hectare area in Dighori zudpi jungle. Two vouchers — one of 6,955 for works carried out between February 22 and 28, 2015 and another worth 3.99 lakh for works from March 6-29, 2015, were prepared by forester Khan and forest guards T G Ghule, Gauri Neware and R K Deshmukh. Poonamchand Warkhade, who retired recently, was the Bhandara RFO at the time and approved the vouchers towards wages.
The payment voucher from February includes the name of Narayan Dasaram Ambade of Waghbodi, who died on December 28, 1996. The voucher prepared in March has the name of Bhojram Dodku Warthe of Sarpewada, who died on May 21, 2014. Meshram has attached the death certificates of the duo with his complaint. Mahesh has alleged that the vouchers contain the names of several persons, like drivers, who may not be related to the works, and others who are educated and can sign but their thumb impressions have been taken.
Deputy conservator of forests Umesh Verma was not available for comment. Chief conservator of forests (Nagpur circle) TSK Redd said, “I have not come across the complaint, but I will certainly look into it.”
Round officer Khan, who holds additional charge as Bhandara RFO, claimed an inquiry has been conducted. “The plantation works done by us were found to be in order,” he said. When he was, however, asked about the involvement of dead personsin plantation works, he said, “We give works to a contractor who deploys labourers. Identifying them is not our job.” He also clarified that the son of one of the deceased — Bhojram Dodku Warthe — has given an affidavit that his father is dead and the money has been paid to him.
Source- Times of India
Image credit- Forbes