A whopping Rs110 crore was remitted fraudulently in the bank accounts of 5.5 lakh ineligible beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme in Tamil Nadu during the Covid-19 lockdown. The extent of the scam, first came to light in a few districts last month, was unearthed by a probe by the Crime Branch CID. The state has recovered Rs32 crore and hope to trace the rest using the Aadhaar card and bank account credentials of the applicants.
The BJP has taken a serious view of the issue and petitioned all district collectors to weed out the ineligible beneficiaries. Briefing journalists on Tuesday, State Agricultural Secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi said, “We have initiated action against 34 Government officials including suspension of 3 agriculture assistant directors and dismissed 80 persons such as block managers and data entry staff.”
He said the scam occurred in 13 districts. During the lockdown, when agriculture dept officials were busy with the corona work, some agents stole the passwords of officials and in collusion with data entry operators validated 5.5 ineligible beneficiaries. Under the scheme Rs6,000 is remitted in the bank accounts of eligible farmers in 3 instalments of Rs2,000 each.
Bedi said the fraudsters had canvassed among ineligible farmers and convinced them into sharing the account details for Rs500 to get what they claimed to be “Corona money” from the Centre. “So far, 18 persons have been held in the scam.”