- SEP 08 2020, 21:17 IST
- UPDATED: SEP 08 2020, 21:18 IST
In a major scam that has embarrassed Tamil Nadu government, over five lakh ineligible farmers have claimed Rs 110 crore after being added as beneficiaries under the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme by officials and “private individuals.”
As the government came under all-round attack from political parties and various farmers’ organisations, Agriculture Secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi said three officials have been placed under suspension, disciplinary action has been initiated against 34 officials, while 80 temporary staff from various governments have been sacked from their positions.
Besides, the CB-CID wing of the Tamil Nadu police is investigating the case and has already arrested a few officials. Bedi said the government has zero-tolerance towards the issue and will go to the bottom of the issue to ensure that eligible farmers are not affected.
Addressing a press conference here, Bedi said around 5.5 lakh “ineligible” farmers have been added as beneficiaries of the PM Kisan scheme in 13 districts of the state and over Rs 110 crore has so far been transferred to the accounts of the “fake beneficiaries.” However, Rs 32 crore has been recovered from the “ineligible farmers” while efforts are on to retrieve the entire amount.
Eligible farmers get an assistance of Rs 6,000 per year in three instalments under the scheme and the scam came to light in the second week of August when district collectors noticed unusually large number of beneficiaries being added to the scheme.
Some officials of the government departments colluded with computer centres and tech-savvy individuals to lure ineligible farmers and got their Aadhar cards to get them registered for the scheme, as the district administrations were busy in Covid-19 containment efforts. They also hacked the passwords to manipulate the system.
By getting ineligible farmers registered, these individuals made money by collecting half of the Rs 2,000 that the “fake beneficiaries” received in their bank accounts. While Kallakurichi and Villupuram is the “epicentre” of the scam, thousands of fake accounts have been found in districts such as Kanchipuram, Ranipet, Villupuram, Krishnagiri, Cuddalore, Tiruvannamalai, Salem, and Dharmapuri.
“The Covid-19 period was used to register the fake beneficiaries by individuals and some officials using passwords. The scheme also allows farmers to register themselves and some individuals used this opportunity to make money,” Bedi said.
He added that the district collectors used powers vested with them to request the managing directors of the banks to get the money reverted back to the government. “We will ensure that the remaining amount that was credited to the bank accounts of fake beneficiaries is also credited back. We will not take this lightly. We are transparent on the issue,” he added.