GOALPARA, April 28 - At a time when the government is trying to ensure that no poor people are compelled to go to bed hungry during the unprecedented crisis due to the nationwide lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a large number of needy people living within the town�s municipal area have alleged that there has been gross irregularities and misappropriation while distributing relief material by the ward members or their representatives in most of the 19 wards under Goalpara Municipal Board (GMB).
Official sources said that relief material was sanctioned for a total of 28,000 poor, needy and vulnerable people out of a list of 35,000 submitted by the Goalpara Municipal Board (GMB) for all its 19 wards.
Sources informed that relief material was distributed among the beneficiaries for three days during the first stage and for another four days during the second stage as per the Assam Relief Manual. The relief package to each beneficiary included rice (adult) 600 gms, rice (minor) 400 gms, dal 100 gms, mustard oil 30 ml and salt 30 gms. Recently, 5 kg rice was given to each beneficiary by taking the average family size to be 4.5 persons and sanctioned under ASDMA to 26,000 needy people under the municipal area.
Talking to this correspondent, Sankar Das (name changed), who lives in the Chandaria Pathar area of Ward No. 14 said that he received a packet containing 1 kg rice and around 100 gms of dal for his four-member family. Upon complaining, he received around 5 kg of rice in the evening just two days back.
This is just a partial picture, but it shows the extent of misappropriation taking place in the entire relief distribution system under the municipal areas.
While noted social worker Sailen Das remarked that although pilferage of relief material is not new, but such misappropriation of foodgrains meant for the poor, that too at this critical juncture, reveals the extent of moral degradation of a section of people and lack of proper supervision during the relief distribution process by the concerned government authority.
Meanwhile, social activist Noni Das said that allegations of gross irregularities and corrupt practices have surfaced in most of the municipal wards mainly due to lack of proper information and transparency in the entire relief distribution system, which has encouraged a section of unscrupulous people to misappropriate a large amount of relief material meant for the poor and needy people who work in the informal sector and are struggling to manage two square meals a day.
He also alleged that in most cases the beneficiaries had received much less foodgrain as relief than was actually allotted to them officially. Das informed that already a magisterial enquiry is being conducted into alleged irregularities in distribution of relief material in Municipal Ward No. 16.
He further demanded that the government should take all rigorous steps so that such irregularities are checked immediately.
While SMSS general secretary Azidul Islam said that the poor and the destitute are looking up to the government for extensive relief in order to survive this lockdown crisis, the alleged irregularities by a section of public representatives at the helm of affairs both at the municipal and panchayat level have made it difficult for the needy and jobless people to get the requisite amount of relief material allotted to them.
Islam also informed that many impoverished families residing in Ward No. 11 have allegedly received relief in between 3 to 5 kgs of rice only till date.
Further, he urged the government to institute an enquiry and to take punitive measures against such kinds of irregularities and misappropriation of relief material at this difficult hour.