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Mar 14, 2013 at 10:23am IST

Maharashtra: Allegations of siphoning off drought relief funds surface

Beed: As the drought situation in Maharashtra worsens, allegations of siphoning off of relief funds have surfaced. The leader of the opposition in the state Assembly on Wednesday claimed bogus beneficiaries of fodder schemes. This came as the Centre granted Rs 1,200 crore as a drought relief package.

Suresh Dass, MLA of Ashti, Beed assured drought affected cattle owners of his help. The Ashti milk cooperative, controlled by the NCP MLA, holds the contract for at least a dozen cattle farmer relief camps. The MLA also holds other drought relief contracts, controlling a 110 water tankers contracted to supply water in Ashti.

RTI activist Rambhau Khade alleged that the MLA's tankers and cattle camps flout relief rules with impunity. For example - replies to RTI queries show that Dass's tankers routinely inflate figures for distance travelled and the quantity of water supplied.

"Records show that 3,50,000 litre of water has been lifted by these tankers per day in Ashti. Then how is it that entire rows of houses haven't seen water or a single tankers for 15 days at a stretch," Khade said.

Those unwilling to be co-opted into the drought relief industry are shunted out. Beed Collector Sunil Kendrekar, believed to be an upright officer, too was threatened with transfer.

Dubbed 'Dabbang Officer' by local media for targeting irregularities in drought relief, the Beed Collector was asked to go on leave. But local protests in his support forced the government to let Kendrekar continue.

Allotted hundreds of crores annually, drought relief corruption is now a well-oiled machine that only a few officials have the courage to question.