50 Tamil Nadu officers booked in Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana housing scam

DVAC pegged the total quantum of the scam in seven villages in as many districts to Rs 2 crore.
Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC)
Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC)(Photo| Website)

CHENNAI: The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) has booked cases against 50 officials of the rural development and panchayati raj department on the charge of misappropriating funds in the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY-G), a central housing scheme for rural poor, in Tamil Nadu between 2016 and 2020.

Under the scheme, each beneficiary is eligible to receive Rs 2,77,290 in cash, material and manpower. While 62% of the money is sanctioned by the state government, the union government funds the rest. Hundreds of poor beneficiaries across the state may have been hit by the multi-crore scam, sources said.

At least seven cases were booked recently by the agency, in the scam using identical modus operandi, and the latest one booked on May 20 was against officials of Sanapathur village in Gummidipoondi panchayat of Tiruvallur district. DVAC’s investigation found that the officials allegedly misappropriated Rs 31.66 lakh by transferring the funds in violation of rules to beneficiaries who had either not built their houses completely or to beneficiaries who already had own houses and are ineligible under the scheme. A few people, who are unrelated to the scheme, had also received lakhs of rupees, sources said. Four of these seven cases were booked in the last six months.

The biggest case of embezzlement was the one booked in March this year against 10 officials in Nagapattinam over alleged misappropriation to the tune of Rs 1 crore meant for 146 beneficiaries.

DVAC pegged the total quantum of the scam in seven villages in as many districts to Rs 2 crore. Those booked are mostly panchayat secretaries, block development officers (BDOs), and panchayat chiefs. The officers have also been booked for forgery.

According to DVAC, officials were mandated to implement the scheme by checking documents and conducting field verification. Officers were tasked with identifying beneficiaries based on financial status, land and house ownership, and also help them in constructing the houses. The houses will have to be built by the beneficiaries themselves and the money would be released to them in phases based on the progress of work after inspection.

Officials forged geo-tagged photos: FIR

As part of record keeping, pictures of the construction work would also be taken by officials and uploaded online through a special mobile application.

DVAC FIRs showed that the officials allegedly forged documents to show that the house construction was complete to siphon off the funds when in reality most of the beneficiaries on whose names the money was sanctioned are ineligible or their houses would not have been fully completed. The agency had also flagged how officials even forged geo-tagged photographs that need to be uploaded through the Awaas software application to show the progress of construction.

The agency also found that the funds released in violation of rules would be transferred into the bank accounts of ineligible beneficiaries or to people linked to the officials. The alleged scams happened between 2016 and 2020. DVAC sources attributed the delay in filing of FIRs to the time taken for completion of preliminary and detailed inquiries.

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