BHOPAL: Panchayat and rural development department committed gross irregularities in Rs 445 crore Narmada Plantation Scam happened during Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP rule. The startling finding had come to fore during an inquiry conducted by forest department into corruption charges. Sources said that besides physical verification of the saplings, satellite imagery technique was also used to ascertain the number of live saplings during the probe carried out from July onwards. Officials privy to inquiry said that government had claimed that 7 crore saplings were planted during the one-day long plantation drive on the banks of river Narmada in July 2017.
According to the inquiry report, Panchayat and Rural Development department had spent about Rs 350 crores in the plantation drive. Of the total saplings planted by the department on the banks of river Narmada, merely 5-10 per cent survived. Biggest irregularity was done in buying of saplings for the plantation drive-aimed at making Guinness World Record.
Similarly, only 5-10% of the saplings planted by school education department are live today. Next on the scale of irregularities is horticulture department followed by the forest department. About 3.20 crore saplings were planted by the forest department alone out of which 25-30% saplings were found live.
The panchayat and horticulture department bought plant saplings at exorbitantly high prices. Moreover, manipulations were done in the number of saplings these departments claimed to have bought. The inquiry was done under supervision of head of forest, JK Mohanty, who had retired recently.
The inquiry has also tried to find out who had planned the whole event and who all were responsible for putting pressure on the officials to get it done.
Sources have indicated that former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan could be held responsible for the alleged multi-crore scam. Officials close to CM then, too are under ambit of suspicion because of their role in implementation of the scheme.
It needs to be mentioned that after hullabaloo in state assembly in previous session, CM Kamal Nath had announced a committee consisting of five ministers to probe the plantation scam. However, meeting of this committee headed by finance minister Tarun Bhanot could not be convened even once.