Govt officers must detect fraud in welfare schemes at early stage
The state tribal welfare department has taken a serious note of the unusual rise in the number of tribals availing benefit under Matruta Yojana and Antya Sanskar Sahay Yojna. The department provides financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh to tribals under the ‘Matruta Yojana’ to enable them to undergo medical treatment for infertility through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and Rs 20,000 under the ‘Antya Sanskar Sahay Yojna’ to meet the expenses for the funeral in the case of a death in the family.
According to tribal welfare department officials, there were a mere 10 claims for assistance under the Matruta Yojana in 2018, but their number has shot up to 77 in the first 10 months of the current year. The department has also noted the increase in the claims under the Antya Sanskar Sahay Yojna, which rose from 477 in 2016 to 608 in 2018.
As the increase raises suspicions of false claims, the department is justified in asking Goa Institute of Public Administration and Rural Development (GIPARD) to carry out a study on the pattern of implementation of the two schemes. There is definitely need to understand why there is appreciable spike in infertility rates among the women belonging to tribal communities as also rise in mortality among them. A proper study is needed to help understand the ground realities and take corrective steps. It will also help find out the genuineness of the claims in availing benefits under the two schemes and plug the loopholes that allows wrong claims to be made to defraud the department.
After much delay the tribal welfare department started implementing 22 schemes for the tribal communities in the state about eight years ago and since then thousands of tribals have availed benefits of the schemes. The department has quite rightly also started an impact assessment survey to test the effectiveness of all the schemes launched for the benefit of tribal people and see how the schemes have helped change their lives. The survey is being conducted with the help of non-government organisations.
The state government has started various schemes for the welfare of the people, especially the poorer sections of the society. However, there have been instances of persons from well-off families and government servants availing benefit under these schemes, despite the fact that they were ineligible. The social welfare department has removed around 11,000 beneficiaries who were availing benefit under the Dayanand Social Security Scheme (DSSS), which was launched in the year 2002. Similarly, there have been cases of ineligible people availing benefit under Griha Adhar Yojana. It is surprising that unscrupulous elements have been defrauding the state despite the fact that claims for benefits are verified by the officials of the departments concerned. While the government has identified the fraudulent claimants including government servants, it is yet to come out with a process to recover the amount that has been availed by them. The authorities should not only recover the amount but also impose other penalties upon the unscrupulous elements including government servants.
As a welfare state the government has to take care of the poorer sections of society and hence the schemes are not bad in conception. The fault lies in their implementation. The connivance of government officials at various levels in allowing fraudulence to sneak in and continue for years in various schemes cannot be ruled out. The officials found involved in allowing such fraudulence should be made to suffer in terms of service records, increments and promotions. Officials cannot escape penalties on the plea that some of the ineligible claimants were pushed by politicians who forced them to waive off scrutiny. The responsibility of regulation, supervision and elimination of fraud lies with the officers.
Welfare schemes are meant for the poorer sections of society. The state government allocates certain share of money to these schemes. That money must be used in a fair, honest and transparent way. It is bizarre that births through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) should rise in tribal communities whose women have far less literacy, broad-mindedness and exposure to medical technology than those of the urban middle class among whom IVF is not popular yet. Some officer should have suspected fraud at an earlier stage.