“If there is no conflict of interest, which mostly arises when the person is panch or sarpanch of the same area, where the work has been allotted in the blood relation, then there are no issues in the allotment”
In the face of alleged corruption and nepotism, one of the panchayats in Jammu district has allotted major construction work, worth lakhs, to the kith and kin of their working members, in gross violation of laid down norms.
Moreover, nomenclature of some of the allotted works is also perplexing, wherein money is released for construction, renovation and de-silting of the same pond, besides unseen work for which utilization certificates have been issued.
As per the documents available with The Typewriter, Choura Panchayat of Akhnoor Tehsil in district Jammu has released funds under 14FC and 15FC for various works from 2017 to 2020, but the allotment of work and selection of vendor, besides nature of work has raised several questions over the integrity of the panchayat.
RTI activist, Sunil Kumar said that most of the works has been allotted to the kith and kin of the working members of the panchayat and in some cases utilization certificates have been issued, despite the fact that work has not been completed, as it was envisaged.
“In 2017, a project namely construction of a water tank at Kanettar was allotted to Subash Chander, who happens to be Naib Sarpanch. He also got work on construction of water tank Moh Tankhyal in 2020,” said Kumar, quoting from the documents (also in possession of The Typewriter).
He said a project namely construction of Bowli at Salori was allotted to Ramesh Chander in 2018, who is husband of Sarpanch. He was also allotted the project of construction of well at Salori worth Rs 395000 in 2019, construction of cremation ground at Shamshan Ghat at Choura ward No 1, worth Rs 462000 in 2020, construction of water tank at Salori, construction of water harvesting tank at Salori Moh Parod and play field at Choura in 2020.
“Similarly, a project of construction/renovation/desilting of pond near Mahakali Mandir worth Rs 399000 was allotted to Shanker Das in 2019, who happens to be incumbent panch of ward no 3, Choura. He was also allotted work of construction of drain at Pail,” reads the document.
Documents read that Sukhdev Singh, brother-in-law of panch of ward no 5, Choura was allotted a project of renovation of pond at Moh Bayal worth Rs 461000 in 2020. Husband of panch of ward No 2, Choura was given the work of construction of water tank at Moh Rajput, worth Rs 534000 in 2020.
The available record revealed that around 90 percent of the allotment was done in favour of kith and kin of panchayat members. Out of 14 major works, only one was allotted to an outsider in the last three years.
Meanwhile, Sunil Kumar alleged that some of the works have not been even carried in proper spirit, but their utilization certificate has been issued and funds already released in favour of the vendor.
“For instance, Ramesh Chander, husband of Sarpanch undertook the project of construction of cremation ground worth Rs 462000, but the ground reality remains that there is only one platform constructed,” said Sunil, adding that a project of construction/renovation/desilting of a same pond, worth Rs 399000 was allotted to Shanker Das. Pertinent to question here, how a pond can be constructed, renovated and desilted at the same time.
Talking to The Typewriter, Block Development Officer (BDO), Choura, Huma Khan claimed that such norms are relevant where conflict of interest arises.
“If there is no conflict of interest, which mostly arises when the person is panch or sarpanch of the same area, where the work has been allotted in the blood relation, then there are no issues in the allotment,” she said and added that all work execution is decided by the Grahm Sabha through resolution.
She said, “FC has been completely shifted to the panchayat, so whatever resolution they pass, has to be honoured.”
When asked about works not matching with the proposed project, BDO said that she has no idea about the same and will look into the matter.
When contacted Director, Rural Development, Jammu, Sudershan Kumar said that under rules they cannot allot work to their relatives.
“I am not aware of any such issue. Kindly send me the details, so that I can look into the matter,” said Sudershan Kumar.