Massive graft in tractor distribution project: Assam Cong leader

Guwahati
9 Feb 2018

The leader of Opposition in the Assam Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, today alleged massive corruption in distribution of tractors among farmers and demanded an all-party House committee probe into the matter. The senior Congress MLA also alleged mining irregularities by Coal India in the state and sought a CBI enquiry into the issue.
"In case of one particular tractor company, named Preet, the government paid a higher amount. The company quoted the price of one tractor in Farmer Portal as 5.83 lakh. But the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal shows price of one tractor as 4.53 lakh," Saikia said at a press meet on the Assembly premises. This price difference hints at the massive corruption at the top level, he said.
"It may be a case of a few hundred or even thousand crore ... We demand an all-party House committee probe into the matter," Saikia said. The scheme had also promised farmers their choice of brand for the tractors, but some influential people forced them to accept vehicles of just one particular company, he alleged.
When asked about the people involved in the matter, Saikia said, "Many officials and bureaucrats might have benefitted from it. One of them is building his resort in Himachal Pradesh. You (media) please find out," Saikia said. Stating that the Congress will raise the issue in the House during the ongoing Budget Session, he said the company in question is also under the scanner of the Central government over various fraudulent activities.
On December 10 last year, Assam government had started distributing tractors across the state as part of its initiative to double farmers' income by 2022, under the chief minister Samagra Gramya Unnayan Yojana (CMSGUY). Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said that Rs 1,000 crore earmarked for the tractor distribution programme will provide for 70 percent subsidy and 20 per cent of the cost will be borne by the banks. The rest has to come from the beneficiaries. Talking about CMSGUY at the press meet, Saikia said it has become a money making scheme for some people in the government.
"In 2016, the government announced this scheme for rural development, envisaging an investment of Rs 30,000 crore over the next five years. So ideally, by the end of the first year, there should have been an investment of at least Rs 5,000 crore and till now, Rs 7500 crore should have been spent for the scheme Nothing of that sort has happened," he said.
Asked about the irregularities in coal mining, Saikia said the Congress has raised the issue several times in the past, but nobody paid heed to it. It was only after RTI activist Akhil Gogoi flagged the matter last week, people took a note of it, he said. "Syndicate pressure and over-loading of coal India trucks are old issues. There are rampant irregularities going on in the state. As the company (Coal India) is a government undertaking, we demand a CBI enquiry into the issue," he added.
However the Assam government today denied the Congress allegation of irregularities in tractor distribution and claimed that an internal committee looked into the issue and found nothing objectionable in the entire process. "After these allegations were raised earlier, we had formed a five-member committee to look into the issue. It has recently submitted the report and found that no corruption took place," Parliamentary affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told PTI here.
The inquiry report has already been approved by the Cabinet, he added. Talking about purchasing the tractors through Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal, he said if it is procured directly by the state government, only then it can be done from GeM.
"As the scheme was for purchasing the tractors by the farmers with their choice of brand taking subsidy from the government, so it could not be done through GeM," said the minister, who is also the Assam government's official Spokesperson. Patowary further informed that the second round of tractor distribution will also begin and the government has decided to float tender soon. On December 10 last year, Assam government had started distribution of 10,109 tractors across the state as part of its aim to make the farmers' income double by 2022 under the chief minister Samagra Gramya Unnayan Yojana (CMSGUY).
Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had informed that Rs 1,000 crore was earmarked for providing 70 per cent subsidy for the tractors, while 20 per cent of the cost was borne by the banks and rest 10 per cent by the beneficiaries. Earlier in the day, the leader of Opposition in the Assam Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, had alleged massive corruption in distribution of tractors among farmers and demanded an all-party House committee probe into the matter.
The senior Congress MLA also alleged mining irregularities by Coal India in the state and sought a CBI enquiry into the issue. "In case of one particular tractor company, named Preet, the government paid a higher amount. The company quoted the price of one tractor in Farmer Portal as 5.83 lakh. But the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal shows price of one tractor as 4.53 lakh," Saikia alleged at a press meet on the Assembly premises. This price difference hints at the massive corruption at the top level, he alleged. (PTI)