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BJD leader alleges Rs 800-crore scam in Odisha farm loans; Congress, BJP seek probe

Written by PaperDabba
Written by Sampad Patnaik | Bhubaneswar | Published: September 10, 2018 3:47:35 am

Damodar Rout has alleged a Rs 800 crore scam in farm loans which he claimed was overseen by the Odisha government’s cooperation department.

BJD leader and Paradeep MLA Damodar Rout has alleged a Rs 800 crore scam in farm loans which he claimed was overseen by the Odisha government’s cooperation department.

In December, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik removed Rout from the agriculture department after state-wide protests against his remarks on Brahmins. Rout has been a seven-term MLA and served as minister in different departments.

Rout, who previously served as cooperation minister, has accused a political leader of allegedly shielding the official responsible for the scam. “Though I had signed the file for extension of the term of the official, I opposed and ordered an investigation after I came to know such irregularities. But the registrar (of the cooperation department) didn’t pay heed to me at the behest of the godfather,” Rout said without naming the politician.

Rout said that “60 per cent of the loans from the department were used for non-agricultural purposes, while 40 per cent exist on pen and paper”.

The cooperation department, headed by Surjya Narayan Patra, aims to provide farmers with credit, inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and seeds, crop insurance scheme, and storage and marketing support for their produce.

Patra said, “I succeeded him (Rout) as cooperation minister. The incidents he alludes to occurred before (my term). However, if he provides me more specific information, I am duty bound to order an inquiry.”

Rout’s allegations found immediate support from the Congress and BJP. OPCC President Niranjan Patnaik questioned why the state government has not rejected Rout’s allegations. “Then they must order an inquiry,” he said. BJP has demanded a CBI investigation into the department’s activities.

In January, The Indian Express had reported about an internal audit of the Odisha government that had detected financial embezzlement amounting to nearly Rs 300 crore, committed by employees in various cooperative banks and societies.

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