•  Spread the word
 •  Contact the author Public audit unearths fraud, stayed
Shailesh Gandhi

6 September 2005

The Solapur (Maharashtra) District Collector Manisha Verma discovered a fraud of over Rs 9 crores through public readings of the state's Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) muster rolls. The rolls were made accessible under the Maharashtra Right to Information Act (MRTI). With these rolls, public audits can be conducted to confirm if the money spent has been indeed used to provide employment. (Rule 8.2.5 of the EGS manual infact already requires that muster rolls must be publicly displayed. But this simple device to check corruption has been rarely implemented.)

The public readings were authorized on 2 August 2005 by the Office of the Divisional Commissioner, Pune Division (Employment Guarantee Scheme Branch). The Divisional Commissioner instructed the District Collectors of Pune, Satara, Sangli, Solapur, and Kolhapur to conduct public reading at the village level. However, since the discovery of the fraud, the same Divisional Commissioner's office stayed the instructions and Manisha Verma was given transfer orders. The transfer orders themselves were later withdrawn following protests.

In issuing the new instructions to halt the public readings, the Pune Divisional Commissioner's office quoted a message received from the Chief Minister which had the following order: "Principal Secretary, Employment Guarantee Scheme, has been instructed to visit Solapur district and submit his report on the inquiry being conducted there on corruption in the EGS works there. Until further orders, the proposed public reading of muster rolls at the village level should be stayed."

A local Marathi daily Loksatta flashed this news on its front pages on 25 August. In response, the CM's office issued a very convoluted argument that they had stayed the investigations so that the officials could concentrate on providing work under EGS. The Principal Secretary of EGS had been sent to investigate.

In Satara district, Shivaji Raut, an RTI activist, has uncovered similar corruption and falsification of records using the MRTI law in Poolkoti village (Mann Taluka) and Shirtavo village. In Poolkoti, 19 workers had been shown to have worked under EGS for the Forest department. All the names are bogus, according to Raut's finding. In Shirtavo village there were 66 names on the muster roll, which had thumb impressions of all of them. But 19 people said they were literate and did not put a thumb impression, but signed their names. Raut is also associated with the National Campaign for the People's Right to Information (NCPRI).

It is well known for many years that Maharashtra's Employment Guarantee Scheme is run with great corruption. In fact this was the argument raised during the debate over the National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, by the bill's opponents. But the NCPRI and the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) have stated that corruption in EGS schemes can be reduced significantly using RTI. And when a large number of beneficiaries participate in an audit by public hearings - as evidenced in Solapur -- corruption would find it difficult to survive. Citizens using the Right to Information law to extract public records can ensure that this.

The stopping of public examination of the muster rolls has been a clear attempt by the state government to thwart honest officials like Manisha Verma. Citizens must come forward and support her efforts. The demand must be that Manisha Verma and other collectors restart the public audits of the EGS muster rolls immediately.

Shailesh Gandhi
6 Sep 2005

Shailesh Gandhi is the Chairman and Managing Director of Clear Plastics Limited, Mumbai. He is also the chairman of the IIT Mumbai Alumni Association.

Citizen Direct is India Together's channel for publishing reports from citizens who have detailed information about specific civil society concerns and matters, by virtue of their participation, association, or independent observation. These reports are therefore as witnessed and understood by the authors themselves; India Together accepts no liability or responsibility for them.   More

 •  Spread the word
 •  Contact the author

Post your comment below, or View Existing Comments (2)

Post a comment
Note: Your post will appear within 24 hours unless found inappropriate (spam, netabuse).
See policy

Remember personal info?

For verification, please enter the security code you see below

Note: Your post will appear within 24 hours unless found inappropriate (spam, netabuse). See policy


  • Posted by Purushottam on September 7, 2005 12:54 PM

    I sincerely hope RTI is the vehicle to curb corruption in our country. There have been many reports over the past year or so about how it has been successfully used in Maharashtra. The advent of the NRTI, will hopefully further strengthen the process to get information from both state and central offices.
    It is expected that those, whose hands are dirty will try to block the efforts at every stage, but as you rightly said by awarness about RTI and active participation of citizens, there is hope.

    I was also wondering if RTI can be used to ask for documents/criteria based on which international/privatization/etc deals are made by the government? The govt. is using the peoples money for these deals and I think we ought to know why the govt. wants to take a World Bank loan or sanction a billion dollar project.

    - Puru

  • Posted by Heer Dharia on November 12, 2005 07:57 PM

    The enforcement of the RTI act is an acid harsh answer of indian democracy to corruption. We should be proud of officers like Manisha Verma who have truly upheld the citizen's rights. We all stand together in the protest against her transfer.

Post your comment