Covid-19 induced lockdown was a tough time for many but several also used this opportunity to mint money through bizarre ways and an officer in Madhya Pradesh is one of them, as he married 3,500 couples on paper and siphoned off around Rs 18.52 crore in the process from state exchequer.
The officer, then Chief Executive Officer of Sironj, Shobhit Tripathi, has been booked by police. The bizarre case was exposed ruling party MLA Umakant Sharma during the winter session of MP assembly recently.
Tripathi is a close relative of a senior minister in Shivraj government. The Economic Offence Wing of MP police has lodged an FIR against him in the matter on Thursday.
Post March 2020, during the lockdown and prohibition period, mass marriages were disallowed but Tripathi fraudulently showed 3,500 marriages on papers from April 2020 to June 2021 and siphoned off Rs 18.52 cr under marriage assistance scheme. There were persons on the list who were already married, said an officer from the EoW.
Madhya Pradesh has a provision of financial assistance for the marriages of financially weaker section girls under Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana.
Close to 6,000 marriages were solemnized under mass marriage scheme in Siroj block in Vidisha from year 2019 to 2021, found investigators who claimed that the now suspended CEO had shown 3,500 marriages in the Covid-19 period. Rs 51,000 each per marriage were transferred in the accounts of beneficiaries.
Some of the names in the list of beneficiaries were those who never applied for the benefits, added an officer, saying documents of several beneficiaries are missing. Roles of other employees from the block apart from the CEO are also being looked into.
During the recent review meeting, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had expressed displeasure over the case and the officer concerned was booked by EoW on Thursday.
MLA had complained about 6,000 bogus marriages in Sironj
Sironj Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Umakant Sharma had raised the issue of 6,000 fake marriages in Sironj block alleging misappropriation of Rs 30 cr from the government scheme during the winter session of assembly. The MLA, through a question in assembly, had alleged that the guilty officer was spared from action for one year. Taking strong objection to the case, assembly speaker Girish Gautam had instructed the state government to probe into the matter. If nothing is done, the corruption will continue unhindered, Gautam had observed.
The MLA Sharma had claimed that such a large number of marriages in covid-19 period were suspicious and had demanded probe and suspension of the said officer. The officer was suspended in the case on Jan 4. CM Chouhan had personally called up the Vidisha collector Umakant Bhargav and asked for action in the matter in the midst of the review meeting.
Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana offers Rs 51,000
For helping poor families in marrying off girls and widows, the state offers Rs 51,000 financial assistance in mass marriage functions. Out of this Rs 43,000 are given to the couple, Rs 5,000 is given to girl’s family for arrangement and Rs 3,000 are gives to the organization which hosts the mass marriage function.