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Church questions award to Kandhamal

Activists asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to look into irregularities

Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar

April 27, 2011

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Church and human right activists in Orissa have welcomed a probe into a multi-billion rural employment scheme but question why the government has awarded the Kandhamal administration for implementing the program. “There are lots of anomalies in the program defeating its very purpose,” Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur said yesterday, reacting to a Supreme Court order for a probe into the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme. The court on Monday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter after a New Delhi-based NGO, the Centre for Environment and Food Security, filed a Public Interest Litigation. The court also acted on reports of the Controller of Auditor General of India and directed the federal and Orissa governments to probe misappropriation and irregularities. Bishop Nayak says failure to strictly monitor the scheme’s implementation “would be a mockery in the name of the poor.” The NGO conducted its study in Berhampur diocese. Its report noted that some 7.33 billion rupees was spent under the scheme during 2006-2007, but government officials pocketed nearly 75 percent of the fund. Activists also questioned the government selecting Kandhamal district as one of the ten best implementers of the scheme. It also lauded the district for bringing sectarian harmony. However, the district was the epicenter of anti-Christian violence in 2008 that killed more than 90 people and rendered more than 50,000 homeless, social activists say. Paul Pradhan, who works in the district, alleged the scheme has become “a political tool” and the award for the Kandhamal administration was “a cruel joke.” Utkal Nayak, another activist, noted that Christians and Hindus worked separately to implement the scheme. “How did it cement communal harmony?” he asks. Bijaylaxmi Mohanty, a woman activist, pointed out that many have complained about non-payment and non-availability of work. In many places, the program has not been launched, she added. Related report Kandhamal Christmas under siege IE14007
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