A flagship scheme of the Madhya Pradesh government landed in controversy again after the Congress alleged a scam claiming “rampant distribution” of bad quality items to the beneficiaries.
The opposition’s allegation against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government came after some beneficiaries of the Mukhaymantri Kanya Vivah/Nikah Yojana alleged that the gifts they got at a mass wedding at Indore’s Chimanbagh ground on February 27 were of poor quality.
The scheme, launched in 2006, aims to provide financial assistance to economically weaker families for their daughters’ weddings. The beneficiaries get a cheque of Rs 11,000 and household items and jewellery worth Rs 38,000.
Earlier this month, Madhya Pradesh Tribal Welfare Minister Meena Singh said fake jewellery was distributed to beneficiaries instead of silver jewellery in her constituency, Umaria. Ms Singh said she has told the district collector to pay cash as compensation to the beneficiaries.
Earlier this week, former minister and Congress leader Vijayalaxmi Sadhi made a similar claim. “Items of poor quality were rampantly distributed to the beneficiaries and I checked in my constituency in Dhar and the claims were true,” the Congress leader said.
The alleged distribution of bad-quality gifts caused trouble for many families. In a mass marriage ceremony in Madhya Pradesh’s Dahi, over 300 couples were invited but the mandap was empty after allegations of inferior quality goods surfaced.
“The marriage has been postponed for the third time, and I’m mentally and financially exhausted because of this. The relatives are mocking us,” Ravindra Singh, one of the affected beneficiaries, said.
Mr Singh said his wedding was scheduled on February 9 but was postponed to February 25 and then shifted to March 15.
Mr Chouhan said he is aware of the complaints. “I am making a change in this system as sometimes the items purchased to be given as gifts to the bride turn out to be of inferior quality. We have received such complaints. Now, newly married women will get a cheque instead of gift items,” the Chief Minister said.
Madhya Pradesh Social Justice Minister Prem Singh Patel told NDTV he will look into the matter if he gets a complaint. “So far I haven’t received any written complaint and if something comes up then I’ll take an action,” Mr Patel said.
On his colleague Meena Singh’s claim, Mr Patel said, “…If something comes up, I will take action and also suspend the officials who are found guilty.”
The Madhya Pradesh government said they have provided benefits to more than 5.33 lakh beneficiaries under the Mukhyamantri Kanya Vivah Yojana and 55,000 beneficiaries under the Mukhyamantri Nikah Yojana. The government said it has spent Rs 1,283 crore on the scheme so far.
Last year, thousands of fraud “on paper” weddings in a Madhya Pradesh district to siphon off money meant for the scheme surfaced.
Following an investigation by the state’s economic offences wing, it was discovered that the scam had been carried out through a network of touts.
They used to approach villagers and take their bank details on some pretext and siphon off money transferred into their accounts.