Funds, material for riot-victims diverted in Assam
Express News Service
Guwahati, June 5: FUNDS and material meant for providing relief and rehabilitation to victims of ethnic riots that broke out in Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts of Assam in May-June, 1996, were diverted by officials. A portion of the relief material was even sold off.
This has been unearthed in a recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which was placed in the Assam Assembly last week. Of the Rs 107.62 crore released by the Relief and Rehabilitation Department for relief to riot victims, Rs 7.91 crore was diverted for other purposes. Of another Rs 9.07 crore provided by the Centre between March and December, 1999, the state government released only Rs 3.80 crore, the report said. Over 5.76 lakh people, both Bodos as well as Santhal Adivasis, were rendered homeless when the two groups clashed in May, 1996. Even after five years, about 1.8 lakh people are still lodged in different relief camps in the two districts.
The report also said that while the authorities received Rs 36 lakh as central assistance for improvement of relief camps, the Deputy Commissioner, Kokrajhar, procured 13,302 GCI sheets at a cost of Rs 30.26 lakh and diverted 1364 sheets for sheds of para-military forces and car sheds. As if that was not enough, the Deputy Commissioner sold 5,137 sheets to the district rural development agency (DRDA) and the remaining 6,801 sheets are still lying unutilised, the report added.
The Assam Relief Manual allows authorities to purchase only food material like rice, pulses, mustard oil, salt etc with relief funds. But the CAG report found during test check that another Rs 6.12 crore was also spent for repairing vehicles, purchasing petrol and other fuel and requisition of vehicles. Moreover, another sum of Rs 1.79 crore was diverted from the Rehabilitation Grant fund to grant relief to the riot victims without government approval. This resulted in gross violation of the rights of the victims, as fund diversion led to supply of inadequate quantity of foodstuff to the camp inmates.
In some cases, victims who were provided complete relief and rehabilitation materials and money by the authorities, continued to stay back in the relief camps and the government too continued to provide them shelter and food. In yet another instance, the CAG inquiry found out that several hundred families received double payment of rehabilitation grants, amounting to Rs 93.40 lakh.
Then there were several other instances of doubtful expenditure, the CAG report pointed out. Several hundred quintals of rice shown as purchased by the authorities did not have any record to prove that the stock had been actually distributed.