To Indians, scams are like every-day news. But when an amount as hefty as ₹934 crores is involved, one’s allowed to raise their eyebrows in wonderment.
According to the recent report sent by the Karnataka State Commission for Safai Karmacharis (KSCSK), funds exceeding hundreds of crores were misused by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in the name of financing the salaries of 6,600 non-existent pourakarmikas (civic workers).
The alleged scammers
The exploitation of funds was most blatantly employed by the middlemen who were given the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) contracts to clean the streets. While the garbage still remains unmoved, hundreds of crores from our tax money were definitely dislocated.
Based on the report, the home department has already ordered a probe into the matter that has allegedly put 87 contractors (who were responsible for hiring workers to clean the streets) and officials of the city’s waste management, under serious investigation.
The total loss
On paper, 19,000 workers are employed for the task while inspection and verification by the commission revealed that only 12,400 such workers were actually hired. This in turn, implies that the remaining 6,600 workers are bogus and were just a trick to extort more money.
The loss caused due to these fraudulent salaries has been appropriated to ₹550 crores. Moreover, the contractors are also accused of stealing the money of the actual employees. Pocketing the Provident Fund, Employees State Insurance (ESI) fund and other savings of the civic workers, the total loss amounted to ₹934 crores.
Scams such as the 2G scam, Coalgate scam, Bofors and CWG scams involved high-end people, which is why the media coverage for those scandals was intense. Scams that happen on the ground level, such as this Bengaluru scam are what are defiling system without being noticed. There has to be some sort of regularity and proper enforcement to eliminate the causes of such of mishaps.
Investigation and aftermath
The president of the quasi-judicial commission, Mr. Narayana reflected the thoughts of every individual in the country by saying that such a major corruption is not possible without collaboration of officials at different levels to execute such a scheme. There has to be more people from inside the BBMP that helped embezzle such vast amount of money.
Subsequently, he requested the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr. Siddaramaiah for a Criminal Investigation Department or magisterial probe into the matter.
He also suggested that the elimination of middlemen and regularising of the work of contracted employees should be performed seriously. Continuous checks are imperative to prevent another such mishap from taking place again.
An interesting thought here might be that with the advancement of our economy towards a more cashless and digitised design, supervising the funds allocated to various civic bodies functioning at even the most basic level of our political strata would be as easy as pie. It is likely that this type of digital system of economy might solve most of the black money and middlemen pocketing crisis in the country, of course, as soon as it sets itself free from the accusations of improper execution of sudden nation-wide demonetisation.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.