Photos of Deepika, Dia Mirza figure on MGNREGA job cards in Madhya Pradesh, inquiry ordered

A scam in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone district, 328 kilometres south of Bhopal, has come to light wherein pictures of Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone and Dia Mirza have been used on scores of job cards of MGNREGA workers. Government authorities have ordered a probe, officials said.

The alleged scam of fake job cards, to misappropriate money under the world’s biggest social security scheme, came to light on Thursday and Friday after the district administration ordered a probe.

Photographs of the two female actors appear on at least a dozen job cards related to village Piparkheda Naka under Ziranya tehsil of the district. Interestingly, many of the cards have names of male beneficiaries. The village is situated about 70 kilometres away from Khargone district headquarters.

The names and addresses of the beneficiaries are real on about a dozen of job cards but the photographs are of the two actresses instead of the actual beneficiaries. It’s not a clerical or a technical error but a well-planned scam to siphon off lakhs of public money in a novel way, RTI activist Sandeep Madahar, who revealed the alleged scam, said.

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Demanding a high-level inquiry to check the authenticity of the job cards from the district, Madahar said, “I was looking into the list of beneficiaries on the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) website when I spotted the celebrities’ photographs. On scrutiny, I could see the design behind the scam.”

“When a MGNREGA card is renewed every five years, the serial number remains the same. However, when I visited the village, I found that the people were hardly aware of renewal of their cards and that the serial numbers on the new cards didn’t match with that of their old cards. None of them had even applied for the renewal. Many of them have good landholding,” he stated.

Madahar added, “What is surprising is that in many cases, the job cards are kept by the village sarpanch, secretary and gram rozgar sahayak. Even the transactions with banks or kiosks situated in rural areas for making payment to beneficiaries are done by them only on behalf of the beneficiaries. Both the practices are in violations of the rules and many beneficiaries are hardly aware of what is going on behind their back.”

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Twenty-two-year old Monu Shivshankar said, “I didn’t go for any work under MGNREGA. I am surprised to see Deepika Padukone’s photo on my job card. I don’t even have this job card with me.”

A tribal villager Padam Rupsingh, whose job card bears the photo of actor Dia Mirza, spoke in similar vein. He said he was not provided any job by the village sarpanch or others.

Chief executive officer (CEO), zila panchayat, Khargone Gaurav Benal, said, “I have received complaints regarding the use of Bollywood actors’ photos on job cards. I have instituted an inquiry to see if these cards are real and in what circumstances the photographs were used on the cards. Action will be taken against the guilty if the inquiry committee reports irregularities.”

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