A revelatory report tabled in the UP Assembly on Thursday says the Akhilesh Yadav government spent Rs 15.06 crore on ceremonies meant for distributing cheques worth Rs 20.58 crore to beneficiaries of one of its flagship schemes. The splurge was done between 2012 and 2013 for the Berozgari Bhatta Yojana, an unemployment allowance scheme that specified that the money should be deposited directly in the accounts of beneficiaries.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the finding was part of an audit of the ‘General and Social Sector’ conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). Of the extra expenditure of Rs 15.06 crore, the previous UP government spent Rs 8.07 crore on seating, refreshments, and other arrangements, while Rs 6.99 crore was spent on transporting the beneficiaries of the scheme to the venue of the functions.
“An avoidable expenditure of Rs 15.06 crore was incurred on organising functions to distribute cheques to beneficiaries of ‘Berozgari Bhatta Yojna’ in 69 districts though the unemployment allowance was to be credited to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts,” the CAG report says.
The cheques were distributed to about 1.26 lakh unemployed persons. The then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav personally distributed the cheques at many venues.
The scheme was first started under the Mulayam Singh Yadav government of 2003-2007. It provided for distribution of Rs 1,000 to every unemployed resident of the state of the age group 30-40 years who had passed high school. The beneficiary was required to be registered at the employment office and had to have an annual income below Rs 36,000.
The scheme was brought back by the Akhilesh government in May 2012. The CAG report says that according to rules of the scheme, the government was required to pay the beneficiaries by making deposits in savings bank accounts opened in nationalised banks or in the kshetriya gramin bank by such persons. It added that the guidelines of the scheme did not state any provisions for transporting beneficiaries, for seating arrangements, or for refreshments.
According to the CAG report, the government during a discussion in November 2016, “while accepting the facts and figures, (and) that the opening of bank accounts in nationalised bank was mandatory as per the scheme’s niyamavali (guidelines), claimed that the ‘payment to the beneficiary through bank accounts was not binding’.”