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How an advertisement linked to PM Narendra Modi exposed a scam in Manipur

How an advertisement linked to PM Narendra Modi exposed a scam in Manipur

The Central government’s scheme website shows a school that is reportedly in Champu Khangpok though it does not even exist. It looks like some people hoodwinked even Prime Minister Narendra Modi,

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Champu Khangpok Village(Right) and  Champu School in Prabhat Pheri Banner Champu Khangpok Village(Right) and Champu School in Prabhat Pheri Banner

A fake list of beneficiaries and allegations of misuse of Rs 20 lakh allotted for development in a remote floating village under the government’s Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY) scheme has raked up a major controversy in Manipur’s Bishnupur district.

The alleged scandal came to light when environmental activist Ram Wangkheirakpam noticed a photograph posted by the District PMAGY Convergence Committee, Bishnupur showing “Prabhat Pheri (Morning Walk)” at a school made of bricks in the Champu Khangpok village, the only natural floating village on earth with 134 hutments. The village is one of the floating biomasses called phumdis in the middle of the iconic Loktak Lake. Nearly 400 residents live in this village.

Champhu Village is of the floating biomasses called phumdis in the middle of iconic Loktak Lake

The photograph of a school made of bricks, which was unlikely to exist, raised suspicion of it being a fake one. According to locals there is only one primary school, which is made of bamboo and cane, constructed with donations from the villagers. “I was shocked to discover that the Central government’s scheme website shows a school that is reportedly in Champu Khangpok though it does not even exist. It looks like some people hoodwinked even Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Wangkheirakpam told India Today. Subsequently, he filed an RTI to dig out the truth.

The RTI found that the state government officials had prepared a list of 110 individuals in Champu Khangpok and took up several ghost projects such as blacktopping of pucca roads, construction of community toilets, providing street lights, emergency ambulances and internet connectivity under the Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY). Rs 20 lakh was allotted for the same.

Interestingly, the beneficiaries named in the list were not even actual residents of the village. The electoral list provided by the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) clearly shows that none of the beneficiaries are from the floating village, revealed the RTI. Even the Village Development Plan, prepared by the government had enlisted eight individuals as the Village PMAGY Convergence Committee, though none of them resides in the village.

The RTI report further reveals that all the work that was to be done have been stated as completed. In reality, hardly any work has been done in the village and, more importantly, such work cannot be carried out in that village. “As it is a floating village, there is no way someone can put street lamps, or build roads. Only boat functions there. Someone can build a floating community toilet, a motor boat ambulance can be there, but it’s not possible to construct community toilet or run four-wheeler ambulance or black top pucca roads, when these don’t exist in a floating village,” Wangkheirakpam told India Today NE.

Based on the RTI report, Champu Khangpok residents filed a complaint at the anti-corruption cell of the CM’s office, alleging that no work has been taken up under the scheme. Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh has taken cognizance of this development has promised strong action if anyone is found guilty.

He also claimed that only Rs 10 lakh was released for the work. “Some elected persons of that area shifted the worksite as the village is a floating biomass, where no heavy developmental work can be taken up. The officials have been instructed to return the money immediately,” Singh told India Today NE.