Fund scam struck Kosi orphans – The Telegraph

Hiru Sada sits on the embankment of Kosi at Nauhatta. Picture by Gautam Sarkar

Patna/Bhagalpur, Aug. 29: The scamsters involved in the Bhagalpur fund transfer racket didn’t spare even victims of the 2008 Kosi deluge.

The startling fact came to the fore during investigation conducted by a special team constituted by the Saharsa district administration in the aftermath of the illegal transfer of government funds to the accounts of the non-government organisation Srijan Mahila Vikas Sahyog Samiti Limited.

Saharsa district magistrate Vinod Singh Gunjiyal said today that he was taken aback over the findings of the special team headed by a deputy collector while probing the transfer of funds to the tune of Rs 162 crore to the Bank of Baroda account of Srijan between 2012 and 2013.

“The funds were meant for the acquisition of land for embankments in eight flood-affected districts under Kosi and Purnea divisions and parts of Naughachhia in Bhagalpur district. But the money was used for personal gains in collusion with officials of the special land acquisition office, bank and the NGO,” Gunjiyal told The Telegraph over phone.

The embankments were to be made in the eight flood-hit districts in the wake of the Kosi deluge of 2008. The special land acquisition officer posted at Saharsa functioned under the irrigation department and in no way was attached to the office of the district administration, the district magistrate said.

Hiru Sada, 73, one of the victims of the 2008 Kosi deluge, said he had been living on the eastern side of the embankment near Nauhatta after he was displaced from his native village due to the floods.

“Nobody is ready to take notice of our plight. Our cries for providing shelter to flood victims have not yet reached the corridors of power,” he lamented.

People like Hiru have no information about siphoning off of government funds over Rs 1,000 crore by the NGO.

Gunjiyal, a 2007 batch IAS officer, said what had baffled the investigating team was that the government money was withdrawn from the Bhagalpur branch of Bank of Baroda and transferred to the account of the NGO through different cheques between 2012 and 2013. The same amount was returned to the account of the special Bhagalpur land acquisition officer by Srijan at Sahrasa in 2015, he added.

The government money (read Rs 162 crore) was used by the NGO for a period of over two years. “Though the money was returned by the NGO, it was illegal and violated the norms. So an FIR was lodged with the Saharsa sadar police station on the basis of the report of the investigating team,” Gunjiyal said.

A report of the findings of the probe team was also sent to the state government, irrigation department and the economic offences unit. Sources in the secretariat said the special land acquisition officer was under the control of the director of the irrigation department. “It’s the responsibility of the irrigation department officials to keep a tab on the funds,” said a senior official in Patna.

A source said the Bhagalpur district officials had repeatedly pressured their counterparts in Saharsa to return Rs 50 lakh to the former’s account, which had been transferred by the NGO to the account of the special land acquisition officer. “It happened sometime in March-end this year,” the source said.

According to the source, an amount of Rs 88 lakh is still missing from the account of the Saharsa special land acquisition officer.

A two-member CBI team yesterday took over the investigation of the case lodged with the Saharsa sadar hospital in connection with the scam. The CBI team quizzed the land acquisition officer, Raj Kumar, for about one-and-a-half hours. They also inquired about special land acquisition officer Krishna Kumar Krishna, during whose tenure the funds were transferred to the NGO’s account.

Saharsa Sadar station house officer (SHO) Bharat Kumar said the file related to the case had been handed over to the CBI team. “We briefed the CBI officials about the investigation conducted by the district police,” he added.

Interestingly, of the 17 persons arrested (one died in judicial custody), six accused have complained of headache, high blood pressure, hyper-tension and blood sugar and demanded from the jail administration that they be shifted to the hospital outside the prison.

All the six undertrial prisoners were taken to Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital for medical check-up. Two of them, Arun Kumar and Arun Kumar Sinha, were allowed to stay in the hospital for treatment.

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