Flood compensation given to non-existent ‘shopkeepers’, allege Batamaloo traders

A State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) official said that it is a case of “misuse/abuse of official position by Govt. Officers/officials who have facilitated fictitious relief in favour of fake victims”

Srinagar: Traders of Firdous Abad, Batamaloo area of Srinagar Tuesday alleged that flood compensation was distributed to “non-existent shopkeepers” in their locality while the genuine shopkeepers were left out. 

A local shopkeeper who identified himself as Muhammad Amin said that he hasn’t received any compensation after devastating 2014 deluge caused unprecedented financial and structural loss.

He expressed anger towards the government and said that the denial of timely compensation has exacerbated their financial problems.

“The officials have handed over the cheques to us but there is no money in the account. We have suffered a lot and demand timely intervention from the officials concerned to save us from going broke,” said Amin.

He alleged that some “persons of the locality who even didn’t own a shop were given the compensation while the genuine ones were left out.”

Another shopkeeper cried foul while alleging that there was “disproportionate distribution of flood compensation” in the locality.

“When we accessed the list, we were shocked to find out that many government employees, students of the locality, who were in the good books of officials, were shown as shopkeepers and received the compensation hands down,” said the shopkeeper who wishes not to be named for fear of reprisal from the bogus beneficiaries.

“You will be shocked to know that all the five members of a family received the compensation by showing each and every member owning this or that business,” he said.

The shopkeepers further said that they are made to move from pillar to post with no official listening to their pleas.

The list, a copy of which is with Kashmir Narrator, contains names of government employees, students, contractors and housewives who are shown as shopkeepers.

A source in Tehsil office Shalteng said that it was a “reward from a corrupt Tehsildar” to the locals who threatened to expose him.

“The figure of fully-damaged houses in Firdous Abad was highly exaggerated. The Tehsildar could have been easily caught by the locals, but to brush the issue under the carpet the deal was struck,” the source said.

A State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) official said that it is a case of “misuse/abuse of official position by Govt. Officers/officials who have facilitated fictitious relief in favour of fake victims.”

“We will investigate the matter and punish the culprits,” the official said who wishes not to be named for he was not authorised to speak to media.

Pertinently, a news report carried by a local daily Kashmir Reader on Monday said that flood relief money in Bijbehara was given to ‘shopkeepers’ who own no shops. The daily claimed that the government has ordered a probe into the matter.

The list, the daily said, has names of government employees, students, contractors, journalists, and even many housewives.

“The officials alleged that field agents asked for kickbacks for a name to be included in the list. Some locals alleged that the field agents were workers of a certain political party and worked at the behest of a leader of the party,” the report said.

In August last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has raised questions over the distribution of relief and assistance to the 2014 flood victims in J&K while portraying a dismal picture of disaster management in the state.

The audit also noted that Rs 1.77 crore was paid to the president of the All J&K Shikara Owners Association. Scrutiny of the bank statements of payments made to the boatmen by the DC, Srinagar, revealed a discrepancy of Rs 30.16 lakh, the report published by PTI said.

Citing another glaring example of mismanagement of funds post the floods, the CAG said the government provided Rs 2.14 crore under the SDRF to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) for collection and disposal of garbage and carcasses and the SMC incurred an expenditure of Rs 1.37 crore.

However, records showed that the number of tipper trucks and JCBs shown utilised by the SMC was at variance with the number verified by the ward officers (sanitary inspectors). An amount of Rs 31.26 lakh was made in excess of payments verified by ward officers, the report said.

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