Express News Service
KENDRAPARA: Another tree plantation scam has surfaced in Baulakani panchayat under Mahakalapada block of the coastal district. A fund of Rs 4.56 lakh meant for plantation of trees on both sides of the road in the panchayat has been allegedly siphoned off by officials as not a single sapling can been on the entire stretch. Locals alleged that the district administration is not paying any heed to their repeated complaints about corruption in the plantation project under MGNREGS.
Pabitra Rout of Baulakani said hundreds of trees, claimed to have been planted under the rural job scheme, do not exist on the ground in reality. “The plaque says the government spent Rs 4.56 lakh to plant trees on both sides of the road from the house of one Hari Mandal to Lanagheri by engaging locals under MGNREGS. However, not a single tree exists on the stretch. The panchayat body members and officials have siphoned off the entire funds,” he alleged.
The local authorities had launched several projects including plantation drives under MGNREGS to provide work to Covid-hit migrant returnees. However, some unscrupulous officials in nexus with panchayat body members have pocketed the funds, alleged Biswanath Behera, a local social worker. “The rural job scheme of the Central government has been marred by poor implementation and rampant corruption in Baulakani panchayat,” he added.
Claiming that the plantation scam was only the tip of the iceberg in Kendrapara, president of the district unit of Krushak Sabha Umesh Chandra Singh said it is high time the State government ordered a probe into the tree plantation drive in Baulakani.
Contacted, assistant engineer of Mahakalapada block Paramananda Nayak said, “We had planted around 5,000 trees last year. However, cattle, buffaloes and some locals destroyed the saplings. We will plant more trees on the stretch by erecting proper fences soon.”
Last year, the district administration had filed a case against the sarpanch, panchayat executive officer and gram rojgar sathi (GRS) of Rajnagar on the charge of siphoning off around Rs 9 lakh sanctioned for planting trees under MGNREGS.