Lucknow: An Uttar Pradesh government official, who had blown the lid off an old age pension withdrawal scam, was suspended on the recommendation of a police investigation team probing the fraud.
Social welfare officer of Sitapur town YK Rai had lodged the first information report (FIR) in the Kotwali police station against as many as 5,055 people, including government officials, village heads and those withdrawing pension on the basis of forged documents. Sitapur is 80 km from here.
A fraud of Rs 9.1 million in the pension fund scheme of the Central government was first detected in Sitapur district on August 14, but the figure has already touched Rs 18 million within a week. According to officials, the fraud is expected to touch Rs 120 million as the investigators dig deeper.
"Rai was suspended after the investigation team sent here from Lucknow found his involvement in it also. Besides Rai, nearly a dozen other officials of the social welfare department have been suspended since the probe began," Sitapur District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar said.
"The fraud is expected to touch Rs 12 crore (Rs 120 million) or even higher as the probe progresses," he said.
However, Rai claimed to be innocent and said it was he who had blown the whistle on the scam about two months ago.
"I had written several times to the (social welfare) directorate and I even have the copies of the letters that I have sent. The clerical staff, along with other officials of the department, were involved in the scam," Rai said.
Meanwhile, the investigating team is facing difficulties in the probe.
"As most of the staff has been suspended, it is getting difficult to find the papers and files related to the scam," a member of the team said preferring anonymity.
Preliminary investigations have revealed that the roots of the scam run deeper.
Around 55,000 people in the age group of 25-40 years in six districts are suspected to be involved in the fraud, according to sources in the Social Welfare Department in Lucknow.
"Besides ordering a probe in the entire state, specific orders have been issued for Jhansi, Ferozabad, Agra, Allahabad and Mathura. It has been found that the list of beneficiaries in these districts and many others has not been updated since 2002," a senior official said on condition of anonymity.
According to the department officials, similar revelations are likely to be made in other Central government schemes like the rural job and the mid-day meal schemes soon.