Bhopal: Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has ordered a fresh probe into a massive plantation drive held under Shivraj Singh Chouhan in 2017 following corruption charges.
The plantation drive, which was aimed to earn a place in Guinness Book of World Records, had involved several government departments besides forest department has reportedly splurged over Rs 499 crore.
After reports of rampant corruption in the drive, the matter was raised by some MLAs in Madhya Pradesh assembly on Wednesday leading to a heated debate between the Treasury benches and opposition BJP. The Finance minister Tarun Bhanot and Forest minister Umang Singhar promised extensive probe into the matter.
Interestingly, there were two probes conducted in the past into the 2017 plantation drive which found nothing objectionable.
According to reports, almost 85% of the plants reportedly had died and only 60% pits were dug for planting the saplings.
A team comprised of a senior Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer and circle forest officers has been formed to investigate the matter.
Finance minister Tarun Bhanot alleged that the plantation drive did not make into the Guinness Records.
During the discussion in the house, the Congress MLAs exhorted the leader of opposition Gopal Bhargav to make a statement on the alleged anomalies. Bhargav, on the other hand, retorted by saying an auspicious drive is being dragged into controversies. Bharav dared the Congress government to probe into the anomalies and take action.
On the basis of the findings of initial probes, the forest minister Umang Singhar had told the assembly in February that no anomalies took place in 2017 plantation. Singhar’s statement was followed by a spat between him and senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh who had scolded him for the clean chit in the matter.
On July 2, 2017, Madhya Pradesh government had carried out a 12-hour drive to plant 6.67 crore saplings in the banks of river Narmada in order to create a Guinness World Record entry.
The plantation drive that started from 7 am continued till 7 pm along the banks of the river covering 24 districts of the state in the presence of officials from Guinness Book of World Record.
The former MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself had taken part in the drive at Amarkantak, the origin of river Narmada.
Out of Rs 499 crore spent in the drive, Forest department contributed Rs134 crore while the department of Horticulture spent Rs 24 crore. MP department of rural development spent a staggering Rs 341 crore in the drive.