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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CBI stumbles a lead in National Rural Health Mission scam

India, the greatest democracy is known for its diverse culture.  Just as the vastness of the land, the politics of India is also too vast.  Often the State and National political streams do not go together and National parties often are at the mercy of State parties, especially when it comes to governance of the States and local bodies.

It is the largest province in India, in terms of population and in terms of land mass fifth after bifurcation of Uttaranchal.  It earlier decided the governance of India, especially the Prime Ministerial berth as it has returned notable Nehru dynasty including Rahul Gandhi, Varun Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi, Indira Gandhi as also from the opposite side Atal Behari Vajpayee.  The legislative assembly has 403 seats, 206 of which were won by the BSP in the previous election.  Yes, it is the Uttar Pradesh where assembly elections have been held.

Arising out of its vastness and sensitivity, elections were held in seven phases to decide whether Bahujan Samaj Party and Mayawati would be able to retain the governance or would it throw a different result !

Corruption is often the common issue in most States and Mayawati is no exception – some even state that she stands tall as the leader; she is one among the highest tax payer.  In the present tenure, she has been accused of constructing parks and statues of herself and other leaders  at crores of  exchequer rupees,  in the name of development and social upliftment.  On 7 January 2012,  the Chief Election Commissioner S. Y. Quraishi ordered for the veiling of statues of all political figures except for Mohandas Gandhi, as well as veiling the BSP's symbol the elephant, in order to have a "level playing field". 

The votes are to be counted on 4th Mar 2012 and being EVM poll, results should be out sooner before the end of the day – revealing who would have the mandate for another 5 years. 

In a move which could start debates on whether it is politically motivated and whether it is timed to be done after the last leg of Assembly elections,  the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has stumbled upon a lead in National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam, which may land investigators at the door of Chief Minister Mayawati.
Despite the Central Government’s categorical instructions that Family Welfare department should not be separated from Medical Health, Mayawati’s office gave permission for creation of a ‘mechanism’ to use NRHM money for family welfare schemes.  It is now stated that the former Minister for Family Welfare Babu Singh Kushwaha  known for his proximity to Mayawati in the Cabinet during its initial days, was given permission in early 2009 to create 72 posts of CMOs overnight under Family Welfare and fill these vacancies to carry out medical projects under NRHM.  It is stated that Kushwaha himself sent this proposal to Mayawati and her office returned the proposal with a note that `it has the approval of the CM’.

According to CBI sources, no procedure was followed in the appointment of new CMOs. Existing CMOs were excused from handling NRHM projects on the grounds that they had too much on their plates and they should concentrate on public health.  Overnight, the vacancies were filled and NRHM money was put to use at an extraordinary speed.  Till now, the Central Government has given the State Government Rs 9,472.25 crore under NRHM. There were two CMOs now in each district in UP – one for the Medical Health and another for the family welfare. Interestingly, only the CMOs representing Family Welfare were authorized to use funds allocated under the NRHM.  Though public health is a State subject and the creation of two separate posts of CMOs does not constitute criminal culpability, the CBI fears that creation of entire chain of new CMOs without any norms and procedures created a mechanism for `open loot’ and NRHM money was diverted without any disdain.

In Bhim Nagar District, 70 women were listed delivering 250 children in less than two years. For each delivery, a woman gets Rs 1,400 under NRHM.  In some districts, NGOs simply culled out names of people over 60 years of age from the voters’ list and footed bills of cataract operations worth lakhs of rupees under NRHM. It is stated that over  Rs 9,000 crore was spent in the name of NRHM. The CBI has only investigated cases worth Rs 320 crore so far and that the money trail is still on in some cases.  In some cases, the money trail is still on.

Whether this would bring out some definitive conclusions or would remain as one more of the many politically motivated allegations remains to be seen

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


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