Bhubaneswar, Nov 2 (LocalWire) Taking cognizance of alleged bungling and misuse of funds earmarked for development of primitive Juang tribes in far-flung Nagada village in Jajpur district, Odisha Lokayukta has issued notices to six senior officials of the district administration.
Lokayukta, an anti-corruption authority constituted by the State government, admitting the petition moved by Right to Information (RTI) activist Pradip Pradhan posted the matter for further hearing on December 9 next.
The Project Director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), block development officer (BDO), Sukinda, Executive Engineers of rural development, rural water supply and sanitation departments and electrical and district social welfare officer (DSWO) were all issued notices for compliance reports by the Lokayukta.
The village, a metaphor of poverty and hunger, had grabbed limelight in 2016. Death of 19 malnourished children in the village, home to about 600 tribal settlers, had laid bare gross absence of governmental social security and healthcare mechanism.
Rattled by countrywide criticism, the Naveen Patnaik government had set in motion a comprehensive Rs.23 crore package for different developmental interventions right from healthcare, drinking water supply to food security schemes.
“We, a group of RTI activists, constantly monitored the situation in Nagada to ascertain as to whether the generous grants doled out by the government for development agenda are reaching the targeted people.
“However, we could not find discernible change in the lives of these impoverished people and sought to know details of work done by the government agencies though RTI queries.
The response by the government department lent credence to our belief that sizable chunk of money sanctioned for the purpose has been siphoned off.
Later, we knocked at the doors of Odisha Lokayukta”, said the petitioner Pradip Pradhan.
In the wake of back-to-back malnutrition deaths of 19 infants, the government had claimed to have done a lot of work improve health condition of malnourished children and ensure the livelihood of the people and road connectivity to the village.
During field inspection, however, they found the ground realities on the contrary. There was half a hazard implementation of works with visible signs of money being embezzled, the petitioner alleged.
An estimated Rs 23.57 crore was pumped into by the government for betterment of tribals in Nagada of which Rs 15.95 crore was spent for road construction and Rs 53.56 lakh for supply of drinking water.
The government sanctioned and utilized Rs 1.38 crore for housing schemes. The expenditure on Anganwadi center was estimated at Rs 35 lakh while Rs 2.51 lakh was spent for providing mid-day meals. Similarly, Rs 24.06 lakh was spent for uplift of infrastructure in schools.
However, people in this perennially backward pocket still continue to draw water from unhygienic source.
Though electricity poles were installed, there is no sign of households being electrified and electricity meters were found to have been dumped in backyards, he said.