R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Sept 12 - Is it possible to plough agricultural land with motorcycles and cars? This may sound weird but such an incident took place in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) as a special audit carried out by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) indicated that the registration numbers of some of the tractors reportedly used to plough the land of victims of ethnic riots belonged to motorcycles and cars.
The CAG has also recommended that the payment of bills in such cases should be investigated as apart from giving registration numbers of small vehicles as tractors, there were also instances where it was found that some registration numbers did not exist.
The report said that in order to compensate the production loss incurred by the farmers due to riots, the BTC decided to go for “tractorisation” of 27,368 bigha of land of the riot-affected families at a cost of Rs 2.76 crore at the rate of Rs 1,000 per bigha. The basis of fixation of the rate was not found in any record of the Council.
After the proposal was cleared, 121 work orders were issued to the tractor owners and the money was paid accordingly between July to November, 2014. The Agriculture officers claimed that the beneficiaries were selected with the help of village headmen and the chairmen of the village council development committees. Those beneficiaries, however, were not checked or verified by any authority of the land record and revenue department. The payment records did not mention about the beneficiary-wise record and period of “tractorisation” and the quantum of land actually ploughed could not be verified because of lack of records.
However, the most glaring of the irregularities came out when the CAG went for checking the details of the tractors used in the programme. The report said that cross check of the details of the tractors shown in the bills with the records of the District Transport Officers proved that fraudulent payments amounting to at least Rs 94.28 lakh was made to 40 persons. Some such persons submitted the registration numbers of motorcycles, Travera vehicles and Tata Indica cars terming them as tractors. In at least eight cases, checking of the records proved that the numbers given were fake as no such registration numbers were issued by the DTOs. In 12 cases, registration numbers of tractors were issued after the issue of work orders. In two cases, the registration numbers had the code “AS-40” which is yet to be allotted in Assam. In another 12 cases, the names of the owners of the tractors were found to be different from those registered with the DTOs.
Moreover, no measurement book or log book was maintained by the authorities concerned and there was no authentication by the supervising officers. Though when the irregularities were pointed out, the BTC authorities assured to enquire into the matter, the outcome was not reported to the CAG.