Citizens' Issues
Varkaris urge Maharashtra CM to stop loot at toll booths

In a memorandum, the Varkari Sampraday, Grahak Panchayat and Krantivir Prathisthan among others, alleged under reporting, especially of vehicle traffic and toll collected so far, by the toll collection agencies across the state

Commuters, farmers and Varkaris (devotees who make walking pilgrimages) had appealed the Maharashtra chief minister (CM) to take immediate and corrective steps to stop the rampant looting done under the guise of toll collection on various roads across the state. In a memorandum, the Varkari Sampraday, Grahak Panchayat and Krantivir Prathisthan among others, alleged under reporting, especially of vehicle traffic and toll collected so far, by the toll collection agencies across Maharashtra.

The memorandum says that as per information provided by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), during 2000 to 2011, contractors for the toll collection have already recovered the cost for 39 toll booths and the percentage of toll collection to cost is around 243.4%. On an average, the ratio for toll collected so far comes is in the range of 150% and 600% for each toll booth in just in four to seven years and according to the tender documents, the contractors will continue to collect the toll tax for another 14 to 22 years.

On Monday, Maharashtra PWD minister Jaydutt Kshirsagar informed the state assembly that even though the government had recovered Rs1,205 crore out of the Rs1,242 crore it spent on building flyovers and bridges in Mumbai, citizens would have to pay toll tax at the entry and exit points of the metro till September 2027. Similarly, for the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which was built at a cost of Rs2,123 crore by the MSRDC, contractors have recovered Rs1,095 so far and will continue to collect toll tax till 30 April 2030, the minister informed the assembly.

The minister was replying to allegations from the opposition parties about the massive corruption in toll collection at roads in Mumbai, Thane and Raigad districts. Eknath Khadse (BJP), leader of opposition, said the corruption figure could be pegged at around Rs10,000 crore and demanded a probe by a high-power committee.
According to the memorandum sent by the Varkari Sampraday, Grahak Panchayat and Krantivir Prathisthan, majority of the toll booths in Maharashtra are in bad condition and are without any sign boards, complaint book and at many places a computerised receipt is issued without mentioning the amount.

Incidentally, all toll booths in Maharashtra have unanimously hiked the toll rates through a notification issued on 17 March 2011, however, the toll collection period remained same. In addition, the contractors are often found to follow government guidelines, especially for returning vehicles. According to the guidelines, the contractor is bound to give 50% concession in toll tax to a vehicle that is returning to the same booth within 24 hours. However, all contractors make 12 midnight as the deadline for the mandated 24-hour period. Therefore a vehicle, which may enter to toll booth at 10pm and return at 1am the same night, is denied the concession by all contractors.

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p k

5 years ago

i am shocked at the toll colected at satara was rs 45 at Khed shivapur, now made rs 65/-!!

also further near \kolhapur one has to pay 2 times rs 58/-!! distance between the toll booth is less than 50 km. i do not understand the logic. cost of toll is equivalent to one person bus ticket.

it is daylight robbery.
for pune mumbai , there is no return toll ie one has to pay the toll 2 times.

Further upside possible: Wednesday Closing Report

If the Nifty holds itself above today’s high, we may see it rising to 4,800 and further to 4,950

Yesterday we had suggested that the market was oversold and may rebound soon. Today, snapping its five-day losing spree, the market closed over 3% higher supported by massive across-the-board buying in the last half hour. After a range-bound move for a major part of the trading session, the indices went on to make splendid gains today. The benchmarks closed near the day’s high with the Sensex gaining 3.63%, its highest one day gain since 27 May 2009 while the Nifty surged 3.28%, its best since 29 August 2011. If the index holds itself above today’s high, we may see it rising to 4,800 and further to 4,950. However, if the Nifty breaks the level of 4,625 on the downside, we may see the index resume its downward journey with the index making new lows. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a volume of 59.33 crore shares which was higher than the 10-day average, suggesting further upside on the cards.  

The domestic market witnessed a gap-up opening, ending a five-day losing streak, on positive sentiments in the global arena. Positive economic data boosted the US stocks in overnight trade, which supported gains in the Asian markets this morning. The Nifty opened 92 points up at 4,636 and the Sensex resumed trade at 15,488, a jump of 313 points over its previous close.

Across-the-board buying by institutional investors kept all sectoral indices in the green. The market remained sideways during morning trade and fell to the day’s lows shortly after12pm. At the lows, the Nifty fell to 4,602 and the Sensex touched 15,377.

Intense buying in the afternoon session led the indices to their intraday high towards the end of the session. At the high, the Nifty scaled 4,707 and the Sensex climbed to 15,727. The market closed a tad off those levels. The Nifty settled 149 points higher at 4,693 and the Sensex ended trade at 15,726, a jump of 551 points over its previous close.

The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was positive at 942:493.

While the Sensex closed with splendid gains, the broader indices—although ended in the positive—were left behind. The BSE Mid-cap index gained 1.29% and the BSE Small-cap index rose 0.94%.
All sectoral gauges settled higher with the BSE Bankex (up 4.92%) emerging as the top gainer. It was followed by BSE Consumer Durables (up 4.10%); BSE Oil & Gas (up 3.72%); BSE TECk (up 2.84%) and BSE Metal (up 2.65%).

The best performers on the Sensex were ICICI Bank (up 7.66%); Tata Power (up 6.43%); Mahindra & Mahindra (up 5.97%); Bharti Airtel (up 5.78%) and HDFC Bank (up 5.12%). Jaiprakash Associates (down 0.28%) and Sun Pharma (down 0.17%) were the only losers on the index.

The Nifty was led by Sesa Goa (up 9.43%); Reliance Communications (up 9.42%); ICICI Bank (up 7.67%); Tata Power (up 6.79%) and Bharti Airtel (up 6.42%). The losers were IDFC (down 2.03%); HCL Technologies (down 0.75%) and Sun Pharma (down 0.20%).

The Asian pack closed in the green on optimism from the US and positive outcome of a Spanish bond auction on Tuesday. This apart, the European Central Bank is expected to offer loans of up to three years at a rate of 1% to banks in the region in a bid to ward off a credit crunch.

The Hang Seng advanced 1.86%; the Jakarta Composite gained 1.12%; the Nikkei 225 climbed 1.48%; the Straits Times surged 2.25%; the Seoul Composite jumped 3.09% and the Taiwan Weighted closed 4.56% up. Bucking the trend, the Shanghai Composite declined 1.12%. At the time of writing, US futures were trading 0.5% higher and all major European indices were in the green.

Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of shares totalling Rs526.26 crore on Tuesday while domestic institutional investors were net buyers of shares amounting to Rs186.72 crore.

India’s only listed micro-finance company SKS Microfinance today said that it will raise the investment limit for foreign institutional investors (FIIs) in the company to 74% from 24% at present. Earlier this month, the company had said that it would raise up to Rs500 crore through the sale of shares to institutional investors. The stock jumped 4.96% to settle at Rs98.40 on the NSE.

McNally Bharat Engineering today said it has bagged orders worth Rs104 crore from three firms—Neyveli Lignite Corporation, Jhabua Power and West Bengal Power Development Corporation, the company said in a filing to the BSE. The stock rose 1.32% to close at Rs84.20 on the NSE.

Oswal Green Tech (Oswal Chemicals & Fertilisers), a Delhi-based chemicals and fertilisers company, has acquired a 14.17% stake in television broadcasting major NDTV through open market transactions. Through bulk deal transactions on the NSE, Oswal Green Tech purchased a total of 91,36,894 shares of NDTV at a price of Rs26.64 a piece, totalling around Rs24 crore. The Oswal stock declined 3.76% to close at Rs47.35 on the NSE. 


Well done, Sagria—the ghost farm pond whistleblower of Odisha

In the innocuous Kusmal village of Odisha, young Khirasindhu Sagria uses RTI to expose the scandal of several ghost farm ponds which were never built but he is instead rewarded with harassment and threats from government functionaries

Sagria Khirasindhu is a young Dalit villager residing in the innocuous Kusmal village of Nuapada district in West Odisha. Most of the 298 households that comprise Kusmal are eligible to be the beneficiaries of the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) much tom-tommed scheme for the rural poor, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) commonly termed as NREGA, as its residents comprise Dalits and tribals. In fact, in Nuapada district alone, there are 1,12,842 job card holders under this scheme for which the UPA government in its 2010-2011 budget has allocated Rs40,100 crore to cover entire rural India.

Portrayed as the world’s largest rural employment scheme undertaken by any government, the NREGA has predictably been mired in corruption, financial irregularities, siphoning off money by village-level officers and worse, non-construction or poor construction of development works, in most states in India. You may see this link from the official website of NREGA which gives examples of shoddy work across India and shows the callousness with which it is handled—http://nrega.nic.i/MGNREGA_WORKS_DRAFT_MANUAL12.pdf

Construction of farm ponds to facilitate water conservation is one of the various works undertaken under the NREGA (See Box 3 for list of works under NREGA).  Seven farm ponds were sanctioned by the Gram Panchayat to be built in the private lands of seven marginal farmers of Kushal village in Khairar Block in the year 2007. However, till date all of these remain ghost farm ponds, as the villagers term them, meaning—non-existent farm ponds. However, payment of over Rs2 lakh has already been pocketed by village level government functionaries.

The Centre sent a monitoring team to conduct investigation into the Kushal ghost farm ponds scandal, on the complaint of activists spearheaded by Ajit Kumar Panda. As a result, two block development officers, one additional block development officer and the assistant engineer were suspended. The junior engineer and the Gram Sathi (friend of the village) were disengaged. However, no action has been taken against the collector. In fact, recently, the suspended officials have been reinstated. The corruption may seem miniscule against the backdrop of the mammoth second generation (2G) and Commonwealth Games scam but such micro-level scams in NREGA together make up for an equally large scandal. Hence, Sagria’s role as a whistleblower attains significance.

Sagria who courageously invoked the Right to Information Act (RTI) to find out the status of payments made for these seven ghost farm ponds has been recently given a show-cause notice by the collector of Nuapada district demanding why the activist’s name should not be included in a list, which the collector is preparing, concerning “persons encouraging litigation in the grama (village)”. He has also been booked for rape and snatching of a mangalsutra by a woman Gram Sathi who, along with her husband and brother-in-law, is an illegal beneficiary of NREGA wages meant for the workers who were to build the seven farm ponds.

So, what did Sagria do to deserve ire of the government babus? RTI activist Ajit Kumar Panda and founder, Krushaka Sakti Sangathan is the pillar of support for Sagria. Narrating the chronology of Sagria’s campaign he states:

“An amount of Rs2.45 lakh was sanctioned @Rs35,000 for each farm pond. Work order was issued in the name of the junior engineer of the block. When the list was finalised, the Gram Sathi of the village instructed the beneficiaries to begin the work in the first week of May, 2008.
“The 1st phase of bribing: The beneficiaries wanted to do the work themselves and thus started digging. But the husband of the Gram Sathi —Jogeswar Sagria asked the beneficiaries to stop the work after some days and said that the beneficiaries could get the full payment even without digging the farm pond. He asked the beneficiaries to pay Rs5,000  each. With the fear that Jogeswar might influence the block development officer (BDO) to delete their names from the beneficiary list, the beneficiaries paid Rs5,000 each to Jogeswar (totalling Rs35,000) and stopped the digging.

“The second phase of bribing: The measurement was done by the concerned junior engineer and roughly a bill of Rs10,000 for each pond was passed by the BDO, Khariar block (on the basis of junior engineer’s measurement and the muster rolls prepared by the Gram Sathi) for payment of wages to the labourers on 30 August 2008 i.e. after 105 days of the completion of the first phase (9 May 2008 to 15 May 2008.) The wages were transferred by the block to the bank accounts of the workers. Most of the works in this first phase had been done by the beneficiaries themselves. Thus the wage amount went to their accounts. The Gram Sathi demanded more bribe and in this second phase of bribing the beneficiaries paid between Rs3,000 to Rs4,000 each with the hope that the final bills of payment will be made soon. They hoped that they will construct the ponds after the final payment.

“Information obtained on RTI: When the work did not resume, Mr Sagria applied to the PIO, Khariar block seeking information on payments made. He was provided the information on 7th November. It was found that more than Rs.2.13 lakh have already been paid to labourers for construction of the seven farm ponds. Careful study of the muster rolls, procured under RTI, revealed that, they have been manipulated both in the 1st and 2nd phases. Names of dead persons and teachers and students of the local school have been entered in the muster rolls. Name of same persons appear in a number of muster rolls. (How could he be working on different projects the same day?)

“Grievance to BDO/collector: The villagers reported this matter to the BDO but no action was taken within seven days as per the Act. After it was reported to the collector, an inquiry was conducted. Various authorities under the collector visited the village one after another, but no action was taken to punish the culprits. Rather, to suppress the matter, the junior engineer was caught red-handed trying to construct the farm pond by using a machine, in the dead of the night. (Use of machine is not permitted under the NREGA scheme)

“Death threat and Police case against Mr Sagria: To harass Mr Sagria who availed information through RTI, Gram Sathi Rina Mandal filed a case against him in the local police station (attempt to rape and snatching of a mangalsutra). Chandan Sagria elder brother of Jogeswar and his wife filed another case of attempt to murder in the police station against Mr Sagria and other six villagers supporting the cause. Mr Sagria was also threatened by another brother of Jogeswar (Narahari Sagria) a teacher in a primary school and president of the district primary teachers association.  

“Intervention of the support group at Khariar: We have an informal support group at Khariar (consisting of social activists, lawyers, journalists and lecturers) to extend all sorts of support to the beneficiaries and the social activists working at village level on various issues;

“The support group at Khariar initiated the following steps,

1.    Conducted regular village meetings to encourage the villagers and the beneficiaries to maintain unity.
2.    Conducted press meet and motivated the media to focus on the issue persistently.
3.    Persuaded the members of the support groups to demand information from the BDO about action taken on the complaint of villagers.
4.    Used Google OREGA watch group as a forum for discussion by providing information on day to day development.
5.    Continuously wrote to the secretary Panchayati Raj sending copies to the joint secretary, MORD, New Delhi and some of the members of Central Employment Guaranty Council.

The continuous efforts finally resulted in the visit of director, special project, NREGA to Kusmal village to conduct inquiry. But surprisingly after the visit, the Khariar police is planning to charge-sheet Mr Sagria on the cases filed against him. This was in spite of the assurance provided by the director that no police action would be initiated against Mr Sagria.

Now, Mr Panda asks, “what will Mr Sagria do now? Go to the high court for an anticipatory bail which officials know he cannot afford? Or allow the police to arrest him? The perpetrators and the police are trying their best to put Mr Sagria behind bars as they feel such action will create in others to campaign against the corrupt. However, we have decided to help him move the high court.”

Mr Sagria though remains undeterred. Recently, he obtained the records of a tank renovation work undertaken at Khudpej Panchayat in Khariar block under NREGA. The expenditure shown in the muster roll was Rs80,000. He placed the muster roll before the villagers and the villagers found that half of the signatures in the roll were fabricated. The information revealed that the officials involved in the tank renovation work had swindled Rs40,000.

A classic example of why a strong Lokpal Bill with the entire lower bureaucracy under it and with independent investigative powers is the urgent need of the country soaked in corruption.

Some examples of irregularities and manipulations in farm ponds in Odisha as reported by Ajit Kumar Panda to the ministry of rural development: {break}

 Irregularities in farm ponds:
 1. Farm pond of Dhusasan Bag Village: Jharsaram Block: Khariar, Gram Panchayat: Birighat
 Year of Work: 2007-08   
 Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
 Expenditure Incurred as per Muster Roll (MR): An amount of Rs32,260 has been shown as expenditure in the muster rolls and bills of payment.
 Approximate Cost as per the Size of Farm Pond: The size reveals that the expenditure is less than Rs10,000. Verification of muster roll reveals that names of dead and old persons have been entered.
 Examples of Manipulation in MR:
1.    Hari Majhi: Dead since long. He has been paid Rs607.00
2.    Nirekha Jagat: A paralysed man unable to move from bed for more than seven years. (Rs900)
3.    Nimesh Sunani: About 10 years old residing at Khariar in school (Rs450)
4.    Takemani Bag: A student in Khariar school.(Rs950)
5.    Asha Jagat : More than 70 years (Rs450)
6.    Kamu Bag: No one is in this name.
7.    Tulu Bag: Student reading in class V.
8.    Dhaneswar Bag: No one in this name is found in this village.
9.    Family members of Gaon Sathi have not worked in the farm pond but have been paid lion’s share of the wage.


 2. Farm pond of Jamindar Tandi

Village: Pakhansar  Gram Panchayat: Nehena, Khariar Block

 Expenditure Made by Panchayat Samiti: Rs18,933
 Manipulation in MR: Eight people have worked in total for seven days. Four of them have earned Rs428.57 each per day! Three labourers have earned wage of 285.71 each per day

Enquiring about the high wage, we found out that the farm pond has been dug with a machine It still carries the marks of the machine. The MR is a total manipulation.

The villagers said that, they did not know that the digging by the machine was for constructing the pond. The soil in that land was of Murum quality. The contractor took that hard soil (Murum) for the road work. “And the farm pond was dug.”

Further inquiry revealed that, the soil conservation department has also dug one more farm pond in the land of Jamindar utilising NREGS fund (Rs14,756).

3.Farm pond of Amarsing Majhi
Village: Bad Dohel Gram Panchayat: Nehena  Block: Khariar   
Two farm ponds have been sanctioned in the name of Amarsing Majhi with two separate work codes. The executing agency is the soil conservation office, Khariar
Estimated Cost: Rs35,000 for each pond as per the information of Amarsing
Expenditure shown in the MR: Rs21,135 in the first one; Rs32,010.00 in the second one. But only one has been constructed— 60 ft length x 45 ft wide x 8 ft depth


4. Farm pond of Mana Sagria
 Village: Bad Dohel Gram Panchayat: Nehena Block: Khariar
 Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
 Expenditure shown in the MR:  Rs35,000
 Actual Size: 50 ft length x 50 ft wide x 3 ft depth


5. Farm pond of Lalu Majhi
Village:Sukli Bhata Gram Panchayat:Litisargi   Block: Boden
Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
Expenditure shown in the MR: Rs18,451
No work has been done


6. Farm pond of Bijaya Prakash Nanda
Village: Anlabhata Gram Panchayat: Litisargi  Block: Boden
Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
Expenditure shown in the MR: Rs.32560
Actual expenses according to eye estimate: Less than Rs5,000


7. Farm pond of Dhaneswar Nanda.
Village: Anlabhata Gram Panchayat: Litisargi, Block: Boden
Estimated Cost: Rs35,000
Expenditure shown in the MR: Rs33600

Some other examples of irregularities in villages Chatiaguda, Sagunbahdi and Mahulpada, Block- Sinapali, Dist  Nuapada 





Bhalachandra Singde

5 years ago

Vo Ek Musaphir Aur Mai Rasta Yaaro
Kahatha Basame Mere Use Rokana Yaaro.
This is the state of Indians and the Politicians of India.
Mahatma Gandhi had rightly stated that the Congress Party be dismantled and fresh 2 party politics be introduced.


5 years ago

I agree with SMukherjee


5 years ago

Thanks for your highlighting such corrupt practices. In fact such 'small corruption' at the lowest levels are multiplied millions of times at the national level to bleed the country of hundreds and thousands of crores of rupees. Hardly 10-15% of the amount meant for the 'poor' must be possibly reaching the intended beneficiaries and most of them, as these examples show, are being drawn into a vicious cycle of blackmailing, bribing, threats, false cases, etc.

In the name of serving the poor such schemes are helping massive loot of the nation by such dishonest insincere govt officials and party soundrels at all levels (top to bottom!). And these must be stopped with an iron hand with particular care being taken not to implicate any innocent victims. A strong Lokpal is long overdue.

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