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Serious "irregularities" have been noticed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in the implementation of the Vidyalaxmi Scheme, a key project launched by the state government to improve the female literacy rate in Gujarat during June 2002.
Under the scheme the state government provided financial assistance of Rs 1000 (revised to Rs 2000 from 2012-13) in form of Bond of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) to girl students enrolled in Standard-I, belonging to villages having female literacy rate below 35 percent. The benefits of the scheme was also extended in May 2005 to girl students of urban areas belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) category. The financial assistance was payable with interest to girl students on her passing Standard-VII. The scheme was also extended (June 2007) to secondary girl students.
From bonds being purchased for male students, CAG noticed several irregularities ranging from bonds being purchased for ineligible beneficiaries, APL beneficiaries, and even instances of bonds that went missing.
Over 1884 beneficiary students did not receive the financial assistance totalling over Rs 18 lakh, after 1884 bonds were found missing from the custody of the concerned Taluka Development Officers, CAG stated about the three test-checks it carried out. "There were instances of irregularities in implementation of the scheme for the girl students defeating the objectives of the scheme to that extent," the country's top most auditor observed.
There were several instances of violation of rules as well. "The scheme guidelines provide that bonds purchased were to be kept in the custody of DPEOs/DEOs and on clearing Std VII/Std X by the beneficiary, the officials were required to encash the bonds and make payments with interest. Audit observed that the DPEO Banaskantha and DEO Banaskantha had transferred over 2.39 lakh original bonds to TDO and school authorities. Further, some school authorities had even handed over the bonds to the beneficiaries," the report observed.
"Instances of purchase of multiple bonds for single beneficiary and for ineligible beneficiaries were noticed. Over 2500 eligible beneficiaries were also deprived of the benefit under the scheme due to non-submission of the list of students by subordinate offices and non-inclusion of names in the list by the DPEOs and DEOs," the CAG report added.