Panchayat members hijack housing scheme for the poor

Panchayat members hijack housing scheme for the poor

The Ashraya scheme meant to provide free sites measuring 600 sq ft to families below poverty line has been virtually turned into a money-spinning machine by the panchayat members and officials of Sarjapur hobli in Anekal taluk of Bengaluru Rural district.

In 2006-07, the district administration had carved out 583 sites on 13 acres of land in Koothaganahalli, which is part of Mugaluru gram panchayat in Sarjapur. The allotment happened twice between 2007-08 and 2013-14, when A Narayanaswamy (BJP) was the Anekal MLA. Local MLAs are the heads of Ashraya committees that decide the allotments.

The eligible people applied in great numbers when the scheme was floated. But the real beneficiaries were the rich and the politically well-connected.

Documents show that Bengaluru Urban zilla panchayat member Muniraju’s mother Rathnamma, former taluk panchayat president Murali Krishna’s wife Savitha and panchayat bill collector Gajendra’s mother Narasamma and brother Pradeep Kumar are among the beneficiaries besides a number of benami allotments, whose registration happened in 2009. Muniraju is now an aspirant for the post of the ZP president.

Muniraju said although he was ignorant about the allotment, he justified the claim for site, saying he was a mason earlier and his family was living below the poverty line.

“However, I don’t want this site. In fact, all the sites should be cancelled and returned to the government,” Muniraju said. Murali Krishna said that he will ask his wife Savitha to return the site immediately.

“Earlier our financial position was not sound, so we had applied and got the site,” said Murali Krishna. Gajendra could not be reached for comments.

M P Reddy, who exposed the scam, said the scheme has been hijacked by politicians and panchayat officials. Only 5% of the  beneficiaries are eligible, the rest are bogus, he added.

L C Nagaraj, Assistant Commissioner of Bengaluru South sub-division, said he will order a probe into the scam. “We identify land and give it to panchayat officials whenever they seek land for such schemes. If there is misuse, we will take the land back,” said Nagaraj. What rules say

There are rigid rules to allot free sites under Ashraya scheme – only one person in a family is entitled for a free site and a female member or a disabled man below poverty line should be the beneficiary. The allottee or any of his blood relatives should not have any land elsewhere in the state.