According to a highly placed source monitoring the investigation, any massive scandal involves politicians, but in this case, there is no involvement of politicians of any political party. “It is the nexus between the department officials, clerks, agents and those operating e-Seva centres who have connived with the ineligible beneficiaries in large volumes. There are housewives and 80-year-old grannies, who have shared their bank details and Aadhar card after they were informed that they would get the ‘corona money’ debited into account. To get the central government money, a cut mostly running into a few hundred rupees has been paid to the agents for each application.”
“Maybe the cut amount is too low, the politicians have stayed away,” the source added.
“Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami who has been briefed that there is no involvement of local politicians has given a free hand for the State CB-CID to arrest maximum offenders and suspend the field level staff who were part of the massive district-wise coteries that swindled more than Rs 110 crore by creating 5.5 lakh bogus applications,” said another official.
When contacted, State Agriculture department secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi said that the investigations have started yielding results with a recovery of more than 45 per cent of the amount till now. On Thursday, the agriculture department officials through CB-CID sleuths have recovered Rs 10 crore, making the total recovery to Rs 42 crores. “More than 95 per cent of those who had got the illegal money had been zeroed in. The department has instructed to seal the internet kiosks that were helping the illegalities and those agents will now have to face police investigation and look out for other livelihood measures,” Bedi said.
He added that they have also written to the Government of India seeking that ration card be introduced as another parameter so that a more foolproof system can be created. “Passwords have been reset and access restricted to prevent any financial irregularities,” the secretary said.
The PM Kisan scheme scandal has been reported in Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur, but Tamil Nadu is the only State that has started showing recovery of money. In my understanding, the BJP and the DMK are coming together on this issue targeting the AIADMK for political gains, observed an AIADMK MLA in Delta region.
“It is the BJP that is trying to damage us more than the DMK as it is a prestigious project for the centre under the banner of Prime Minister Modi. There is no such police action and huge money recovery even in the BJP ruled states like Assam and Uttar Pradesh,” he said.
According to Agriculture Department insiders, the Union Agricultural Ministry has sent an acknowledgement to the Tamil Nadu officials expressing satisfaction over the recovery of funds and departmental action initiated against errant government staff.
Stalin demands CBI probe
DMK president M K Stalin on Thursday reiterated that Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami should immediately recommend a CBI probe into the PM Kishan scheme scam to arrest the real culprits. Alleging that the fund meant for farmers during the pandemic has been intercepted and siphoned off and over 10,000 bogus beneficiaries have received funds in the CM’s native Salem district alone, the DMK president, in a statement issued in this regard, said the entire scam was not possible without the support of the rulers.