RTI exposes Janawad scam
Posted by rtiact2005 on July 16, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006 (Rajsamand):
RTI has once again helped come to the rescue of people in nailing those responsible for the “mother of all Rural Development scams” in Rajasthan.
In the 1990s, the Janawad Panchayat in Rajsamand district began spending over Rs one crore annually the highest among the 9000 panchayats in the state.
Over 70 per cent of the money was siphoned off by a corrupt nexus between the Sarpanch and government officials.
The scam was not exposed with the help of any sting operation or hidden cameras but by villagers who used their Right to Information to nab the culprits.
A government dispensary in the district is at the heart of the scam in Janawad Panchayat.
Though it was built in 1960s but in 1998 the then Sarpanch siphoned off nearly Rs two lakh claiming it to be a new building.
Two years later the Rajasthan Information Act made it compulsory to display on Panchayat offices the details of all development works. And villagers soon caught the Sarpanch’s corruption.
“They never built a new dispensary, they just fudged government records to make this false claim. In reality, this was built about 40 years ago when I used to study in school,” said Chaman Lal, Resident, Janawad village.
Using their Information rights over 70 villagers then collectively demanded the records of their Panchayat and the frauds this revealed is truly staggering.
Forty-nine out of the 146 works undertaken simply did not exist.
The list includes five wells, seven roads and six primary schools, which existed only in government records but were never built on the ground.
“The Right to Information is a strong law and people must use it. In Janawad, government officials colluded from top to bottom for their corrupt deals. Similarly, we need to constantly monitor their work and fight collectively if we want to curb corruption,” said Shanker Singh, Coordinator, MKSS.
Once the government took tough action against the corrupt.
The Sarpanch was jailed and 13 government officials involved in the scam were suspended. And annual social audits of Panchayat funds were made mandatory.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had once stated frankly that of every rupee of development funds, barely 15 paisa actually reach the poor on the ground.
But villagers here have shown that if people fight together, the Right to Information can help change this situation and combat corruption effectively.