Sowing corruption: Bungling’s in Agriculture department go unpunished

Srinagar: From diverting State funds into their personal bank accounts to taking huge bribes from their employees for releasing their salaries, the Kashmir’s agriculture department has done it all.

In Beerwah agriculture sub-division alone, the officers have diverted Rs 6.51 lakh into their personal bank accounts out of Rs 8 lakh meant for training of farmers in latest agriculture technology.

The irregularities and embezzlement of funds are spread across Kashmir particularly in Budgam and Ganderbal district, where officers have been found involved in these scandals.

Importantly, to enquire the kickbacks, misappropriation and embezzlement of funds between 2015- 2017, the Principal Secretary Agriculture department Sandeep Kumar Nayak constituted a committee on October 9.

The enquiry committee led by Director Rakhs and Farms, A R Samoon reveale it is unable to fix responsibility on the “delinquent officials from top to bottom” who have defaulted in organizing the training camps as Director Agriculture, Aijaz Andrabi refused to provide the receipt of funds and their district wise allocation.

“The non-submission of information has cast a shadow on the transparency of district wise allocation of training programs by Directorate of Agriculture,” it said.

However, the enquiry report submitted recently reveals that agriculture department on March 11, 2017, had allotted Rs 21.12 lakh under various centrally sponsored schemes for organizing various training camps in Budgam district.

“Out of Rs 8 lakh meant for training of farmers in agriculture sub-division of Beerwah, the agriculture extension officer Beerwah, Ghulam Rasool Bhat has diverted Rs 6.51 lakh into his personal bank account,” it said.

Bhat asked the Village Agriculture Extension Assistants (VAEAs) of Beerwah Zone of Beerwah Sub-division to sign blank vouchers for withdrawal of expenditure. Subsequently, Rs 15000 were credited to their accounts for conducting the training camps.

However, he later told the VAEAs that Rs 15000 were mistakenly credited in their accounts and only Rs 2500 were meant for such camps.

“So the 13 VAEAs handed over Rs 12500 each to Bhat and a total Rs 1,62,500 went to him,” it said.

The enquiry report says Rs 15000 was drawn per training camp from State treasury on fake and fictitious vouchers on account of refreshment for 150 farmers for each training camp.

“Fake list of 150 beneficiaries in each training camp was prepared by forged signatures on behalf of beneficiaries through some hands and money was withdrawn from the treasury,” it said.

Following the same method of theft in other zones of Beerwah Sub-division, Bhat deposited Rs 45000 in Ultigam, Rs 40,000 in Ziagam, Rs 22500 in Khag, Rs 14000 in Narbal and Rs 1.65 lakh in Gumrah in his personal bank account.

Bhat has been out on suspension immediately after the department received the complaints of corruption against him.

The enquiry has also established that the officers have taken bribe from daily wage workers for releasing their salaries.

Enquiry also reveals that Rs 18 lakh were allotted from State treasury for the salary of the agriculture daily wagers. However, the officials in Budgam district withheld that till striking a deal with the daily wagers, who were without salary for past one year.

After pressuring them that government is unwilling to release the salary, the daily wagers were made to pay over Rs 10 lakh as bribe to ensure they get their wages.

Director Agriculture Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi is also facing an enquiry after he raised his pay and grade “fraudulently in gross violation of financial code” in September.

Taking serious note of favoritism, nepotism and corruption in the Agriculture Department and frequent wholesale transfers in total disregard to the rules, the Jammu and Kashmir State Accountability Commission (SAC) last month issued notices to sitting and two former Directors of the department for the Kashmir valley seeking their comments before initiating regular enquiry.

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