Beneficiaries submit cowshed pics, claim housing aid

Beneficiaries submit cowshed pics, claim housing aid

About 8% of Rs 90 crore housing aid went to ineligible beneficiaries.

Ineligible beneficiaries claimed monetary aid of up to Rs 6.3 crore for houses by either submitting pictures of the same building clicked from different angles or by uploading photos of goat and cowsheds.

Out of 54,000 beneficiaries who had applied for monetary assistance under various schemes of the housing department, 21,000 houses under construction have been inspected physically so far. The findings are grim.

The department had disbursed Rs 90 crore to beneficiaries, eight per cent of which went to ineligible beneficiaries. Deputy commissioners of all districts and CEOs of zilla panchayats have been ordered to initiate criminal proceedings and recover the amount.

             Manoj Kumar Meena, Principal Secretary, Department of Housing, told DH, “Payment is made in four installments. Our process is rigorous where even the geo-coordinates of the pictures uploaded are verified. But when we did a trial check-in three-gram panchayats in Bidar, Chitradurga, and Yadgir, we found that more than 30% of the beneficiaries were ineligible.”

Meena said the department had developed the Vasathi Vigil app, and had physically visited the places and checked if the beneficiaries’ names figure in the gram sabha list.

“Out of 50,000 odd beneficiaries, 21,000 have already been paid and we found that seven to eight per cent were ineligible.”

“Eight per cent of Rs 90 crore is not a small amount. We found a pattern,” he said.

“Without the approval of the gram sabhas, the beneficiaries’ names were included in the list. Secondly, the same photo was being used multiple times to get the installments. The same house’s picture was taken and applications were made for different houses,” he said.

In Chitradurga, a criminal case has been booked against the official who colluded with the fraudsters. There are five state government housing schemes and two of the central government. In all, 4.5 lakh houses are under construction.

The first installment is paid when the foundation is laid, second is done when the walls are built and the third when the roof is constructed. At every stage, the beneficiaries are supposed to upload pictures. The final installment is paid when the construction is completed. Though each photo is audited at the Rajiv Gandhi Housing Corporation Ltd, irregularities still cropped up.