The administration in District Murshidabad of West Bengal has finished an investigation into a unique case of misappropriation of government funds where at least Rs 7 lakh was collected for beneficiaries of contractual job schemes for villagers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (MGNREGA) and part of the money was sent to people in Bangladesh. Officials said that fake job cards were created to make the withdrawals.
The main allegation is against the upapradhan (deputy head) of the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-run Gurapashla gram panchayat in the Nabagram police station area.
The administrative inquiry unearthed the fact that Samsul Arfin, the upapradhan, made the fake MGNREGA job cards for his relatives, as many as 13 of whom are Bangladeshi nationals, officials said.
Arfin ‘created’ these jobs allegedly in various areas by changing names of the same beneficiaries. The shady beneficiaries then withdrew money from banks and post offices. They used ATM cards for withdrawals too.
Officials said that the former community block development officer (BDO) of Nabagram completed an internal probe on the basis of a written complaint. The internal probe concluded that Arfin and some staff members of the gram panchayat were involved in the alleged fraud.
The former BDO lodged a police complaint against which a first information report (FIR) was registered in December 2019. However, there has been no progress in the police probe although a year has passed.
Media has in its possession a copy of the FIR as well as the list of the Bangladeshi nationals who received the money through MGNREGA.
Officials said that after the FIR was registered, Arfin moved the Calcutta High Court for anticipatory bail. The court rejected the petition but the accused was not arrested, a senior district official said on condition of anonymity. Arfin could not be contacted despite several attempts.
Pankaj Das, the present BDO of Nabagram, said, “After joining duty, I got to know that the former BDO completed the internal probe and lodged an FIR against the accused at Nabagram PS under Sections 486,406,409,420 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.”
“It is for the police to complete the probe and take legal action. I cannot say why the police did not make any arrest,” Das added.
Muslims comprise 66.28 % of Murshidabad’s population, making it the highest among all districts in Bengal. The district shares its eastern border with Bangladesh.
District TMC spokesperson Apurba Sarkar said, “If the upa-pradhan is involved in the alleged embezzlement of government funds the administration has the right to take legal action against him. We are not going to shield him.”
Nabagram block Congress president Mir Badam Ali said, “Arfin embezzled government funds with help from some staff members. Some of the beneficiaries are even minors. The TMC leader helped Bangladeshi nationals make money out of a Central government project.”
No senior officer of the district police was ready to comment on the issue. An officer said on condition of anonymity that Arfin is on the run and will be arrested soon.