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Chenchus turn whistleblowers, unearth Rs. 3 crore fraud

K. Venkateshwarlu

Using RTI, they produce data on various schemes and trace the route of diversion of funds

— PHOTOs: K.VENKATEShWARLU

Sending strong message: Chenchus displaying the documents they obtained through RTI at Sainpet in Mahabubnagar district. (right) Widow Shivamma who was certified as dead by the fraudsters.


SAINPET (Mahabubnagar dt): Exasperated by government schemes not reaching them, Chenchus, the primitive tribal group (PTG) of this remote habitation have made history by blowing the whistle on a fraud amounting to Rs. 3 crore.

Using Right to Information Act, a group of Chenchus ferreted out data from the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) for PTG-Chenchus, Srisailam, on various schemes, collated them with the actual works taken up in their ‘gudem' (habitation), traced the route of diversion of funds, chased the banks and launched a struggle to pin down the culprit— hailing from their own community.

They are now seeking criminal action against him, his family members and ITDA officials who “connived” with him and invoking of provisions of Revenue Recovery Act to recover the amount. “We want the ITDA to send a strong message to all that no corrupt leader will be spared”, said Nimmala Bondaiah, president of the Sainpet Village Tribal Development Association (VTDA).

For years, Chenchus of this ‘gudem' were wondering why they were unable to get the full complement of government schemes routed through ITDA. Construction of 112 houses (each ranging from Rs. 28,000 to Rs. 35,000) sanctioned under Indira Awas Yojana and Indiramma from 2005 to 2008 has not taken off but funds were siphoned off on bogus claims. Their probe traced the drawal of funds to a former VTDA president. “Apparently he was assisted by ITDA and bank officials”, assert Bangaraiah, Narasimha and Arjunaiah, the RTI applicants. When they took it up with police, they were threatened with dire consequences by those involved in the fraud. M. Sambasiva Rao of Banjara Development Society said :“What former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi observed years ago pales into insignificance in the land of Chenchus. Most of the funds are eaten away by middlemen leaving nothing for Chenchus. No surprise, their plight remains the same even after three decades of ITDA”.

Not just housing, the Chenchus detected large scale embezzlement in building of check dams, deepening of wells, raising of mango and medicinal plantations, purchase of land, submersible pumpsets, sprinklers and plough bullocks. Even the Janashree Bima Yojana, a life insurance scheme was not spared. At least six persons were shown as dead and insurance amount of Rs. 30,000 each was drawn by submitting fake death certificates.

“I am alive but a cheque for Rs. 30,000 was issued on my name as if I am dead and withdrawn”, says a perplexed Udthanuri Shivamma, a widow. The whistleblowers have all the details and await action by ITDA and Vigilance and Enforcement Department.

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