Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Money meant for poor going somewhere else: Supreme Court

- Press Trust of India letters@hindustant­imes.com


Voicing “shock” over money meant for the welfare of constructi­on workers going “somewhere else”, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Comptrolle­r and Auditor General (CAG) to file an audit report as to how crores for the purpose was spent.

It observed that there is no record as to how ₹5,000 crore was spent and directed the CAG to file the report within two weeks.

“Out of the ₹26,000 crore, ₹5,000 crore have been spent. We do not know where the money has been spent. You have to ensure that it is not spent on tea or lunch,” a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh.

“A lot of money is involved in this. It is supposed to go to the poorest people of the country. It is not going to them. It is going somewhere else. It is a very important matter. The money should reach to the poorest people,” the bench said.

Singh told the bench that the money was lying with the state government­s and “it is not that the money has disappeare­d”.

The court, however, observed that what has been conveyed to it was shocking and the Centre must find a way to deal with the situation. “What has been told to us is very shocking. You have to find a solution. It is a matter of ₹26,000 crore,” the bench told the ASG. Senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves, who appeared for the petitioner, claimed that a huge amount of money was transferre­d and it was being used for “all kinds of sundry purposes”.

“Roughly, how much will be the amount,” the bench asked a CAG official, who was present in the court. Responding to the court’s query, the official said the total amount may be around ₹28,000 crore. When the apex court asked the official about the ₹5,000 crore, which has been spent, he said, “We will look into it and give an audit report.”

The bench then fixed the matter for further hearing on May 5.

The CAG had earlier told the court that it would file an affidavit giving the latest status with regard to the audit of the funds meant for welfare of constructi­on workers across the country. The court had in 2015 expressed displeasur­e over non- utilisatio­n of a whopping ₹26,000 crore by the Centre and various state government­s, saying it cannot get worse than that.

It had also said it was “ridiculous” that the money meant for these workers was spent on the ‘babus’ and advertisem­ents.

The court was hearing the PIL filed by an NGO, National Campaign Committee for Central Legislatio­n on Constructi­on Labour, alleging that the statutory cess levied from real estate firms for the welfare of constructi­on workers was not being utilised properly as there was no mechanism to identify the beneficiar­ies for extending the benefit.

It had earlier asked the Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and Delhi government­s to “file their submission­s on affidavits with regard to collection and utilisatio­n of the amounts and proposals for utilisatio­n within two weeks”.

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