The thatch-roofed hut with its frayed walls on two cents of land at Marulukarankottai has been Devaki’s home for the last 28 years. Her husband Chinnasamy Sithan and she lived there till he died in 2014. Recently, Devaki walked into the Mukkulam panchayat office asking for a house to be allotted on the same plot of land that she inherited.
Curiously, the records showed Devaki’s husband Chinnasamy had been allocated a house under the Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana (PMAY) in 2017-18, long after he was dead. The bill was shown as “closed and completed” for ₹1.20 lakh under the scheme at that time for a house that should have existed on that site. “I only need a house, I do not know what house, whether it is the State government’s [green house] or the Central government’s [PMAY],” Ms. Devaki said holding death certificate of Chinnasamy and her widow certificate.
With the records showing her husband as a beneficiary, she is now ineligible for the State government’s green housing scheme.
Ms. Devaki’s husband is among several names which figure in the list of bogus beneficiaries of the PMAY.
Similarly, Rani was surprised to see her father-in-law Murugesan Annamalai’s name in the PMAY list of 2017-2018: Murugesan had died seven years ago. “We checked after we heard about Devaki,” said Rani. The list showed that a work order for ₹1.20 lakh was issued and completed in 2017-2018.
“The word has spread, and there is panic. People are coming and asking if their names have figured in the list too, while they didn’t know,” said Kandaperumal, spouse of Kanchana, the president of the Mukkulam panchayat. Speaking on behalf of his wife, Mr. Kandaperumal said he got the list from the BDO’s office at Karimangalam, since people were asking for information.
Subramani, a resident of the village, said he had just filed a PIL petition online. In the four-page beneficiary list of 58 names for 2016-20, Subramani has circled 12 names as bogus because the beneficiaries mentioned were either dead or those who had no clue they were allocated funds under the scheme, but the bill was shown as closed and completed for a house under the PMAY.
One such reported beneficiary is Kuppusami Rangasami, who was ‘allocated’ a PMAY house even after he had built a house under the green housing scheme. “The bill was passed for ₹1.20 lakh to his account, and then the panchayat clerk came and asked him to withdraw the money and give it to him saying there was a mistake of double allocation,” alleged Subramani.
“But we have closed in on some 40 names that we believe may be bogus, but the number may be fewer,” said Mr. Kandaperumal. “All of this happened during the period when there were no panchayat presidents,” he said.
“Many listed beneficiaries have single names without the last name. This makes it difficult to cross-check. The BDO’s office will have the records but they have refused to share the details even when we asked for them,” alleged Mr. Kandaperumal. “A beneficiary will have to submit Aadhaar card, voter identity card, ration card and a photo, and these are sent to the BDO’s office. Only the recommendation for the beneficiaries is made at the panchayat level after their category is vetted,” he says.
The supervision at various stages involves overseeing of the works by a joint team of the BDO, the overseer, the Assistant Engineer and the panchayat clerk. The beneficiary bears the cost up to the basement, after which the construction work is measured and verified for reimbursement of funds in instalments.
An official at the BDO’s office at Karimangalam, who did not want to be named, said, “The Collector has asked us to conduct an inquiry. The allegation of 40 bogus names is an exaggeration,” he said. But asked about the allocations made to the dead, of which at least two were verified, the official repeated, “The Collector has asked for an inquiry.”
A panchayat clerk conceded that mistakes might have happened, even as he tried to explain what might have happened. According to him, the computer follows the names registered during the 2011 census. “For instance, Chinnasami Sithan’s name would be in the records. When we looked for it, there was another beneficiary Nirmala whose father’s name is Chinnasamy, and she may have applied. So, we gave it to her.”