GUWAHATI, March 6 - Major malpractices have surfaced in implementation of a fishery scheme meant to increase productivity through inputs and materials supply, leading to suspension of as many as 17 demonstrators and transfer of at least 10 other officials of the department over the last few days.
The officials faced action after it was detected that they certified supply of fish seed and feeds to beneficiaries even though the suppliers distributed cash among the beneficiaries who refused to accept the materials as they were nearing the harvest time.
In the year 2017-18, the Fishery department under its scheme Matsya Jagaran had provided funds to beneficiaries for digging ponds – about Rs 78,000 for ponds measuring around 0.14 hectares.
Next year, that is 2018-19, the beneficiaries were supposed to get inputs in the form of fish seed and feed. However, the government delayed the sanction of Rs 76 lakh estimated for the second component of the scheme. The sanction was given by the government in June. The tender committees were formed in the districts headed by the DC for finalising the supplier of seed and feed. By the time the work orders were given, it was November and the distribution had to be halted due to the Model Code of Conduct for the panchayat elections.
“When the suppliers finally went for the distribution in December, the beneficiaries refused to accept it as they had already begun cultivation from their own resources. The fish cultivation begins in March-April and the harvest comes in November-December. The beneficiaries said they would accept it in the next season,” sources said.
There are around 700 beneficiaries under the scheme. They have ponds in 20 districts measuring a total of 101.34 hectares.
However, the suppliers tried to distribute cash among the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries having 0.14 hectare ponds were supposed to get seed and feeds worth Rs 8051 and those having 0.10 hectare ponds were to get materials worth Rs 5,751.
“But the suppliers distributed cash among the beneficiaries, in some cases Rs 2,000, in some Rs 4,500 etc. There is no provision of distributing cash under the scheme. Moreover, the fishery demonstrators, who were supposed to oversee the distribution, endorsed the documents of the suppliers based on which the ceiling demand for the release of the money was also given to the government,” the sources added.
Fishery director PN Das confirmed the irregularities. “The investigations are still in preliminary stage. We are yet to ascertain the amount misused. Action is being taken against officers found guilty of lapses,” Das told The Assam Tribune.
The contractors also have been slapped showcases and they are likely to be blacklisted.
Insiders said the government too has a share of the blame for the scheme turning dud. “The sanction should have come on time. Why will a beneficiary accept the materials at a time when he doesn’t need it and has started the cultivation?,” they said, adding that such lapses on the government part have been happening every year.