BHOPAL: Ten months after the Shivraj Singh Chouhan regime crowed that it had planted over six crore saplings on the Narmada’s banks in a span of 12 hours, the Congress has smelt a massive scam in the project.
Out of power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003, the Congress is set to make the alleged sapling scam a major plank in the year-end Assembly elections.
“It’s a big scam in the name of river Narmada,” state Congress chief Kamal Nath alleged at a media interaction on Wednesday. “It’s not only the question of planting six crore saplings, but also how much expenditure was incurred on it. Were the public funds being shown as spent on the ambitious environment conservation exercise actually spent on ground zero?” he wondered.
“Before searching for the six crore saplings on the ground, we need to first find out where the funds earmarked for the project went. A force of rakshaks (guards) was set up by the state government to conserve the saplings. But the question is who were these rakshaks, how much money did they get?” The former Union Environment Minister claimed the entire money had been distributed among the BJP’s workers in the name of tree plantation. “This monsoon also, they (the BJP government) is planning a similar exercise.”
He alleged, “Six crore saplings were never planted. Recently, when I went to Narsinghpur district by helicopter, I didn’t see the saplings on the river bank. They (BJP people) mocked me and asked how I could spot saplings from the helicopter. But I know how to spot them. I didn’t even see 100 saplings. Forget about survival of the saplings, the six crore saplings were not planted at all.”
Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha said the Congress would play up the “scam” ahead of the year-end MP elections.
Recently, a group of sadhus from various akharas too had protested in Bhopal, demanding a probe into the planting of the six crore saplings in July 2017. They have set May 25 as the deadline for the state government to come clean over the issue. Last March, the MP government was in a spot when Guinness World Records asked for videos of each of the 1.2 lakh plantation sites as proof that over 6 crore saplings had been planted on a single day in July 2017.