Four Telangana officials arrested in sheep scam

Hyderabad, Feb 22 (IANS) Telangana’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Thursday arrested four officials for their alleged involvement in irregularities in sheep distribution, a flagship scheme by the previous BRS government.

The officials are Assistant Director of Kamareddy Veterinary Hospital, Ravi, Assistant Director, Animal Husbandry Department in Medchal district, Aditya, Ground Water Officer of Rangareddy district, Raghupathi Reddy, and Deputy Director, Adult Education, Ganesh.

They were all produced in Nampally ACB Court, which sent them to judicial custody till March 7. They were all shifted to Chanchalguda Jail.

The accused had allegedly colluded with some private individuals to transfer Rs 2.10 crore public money into fake accounts.

The ACB launched an investigation in January into the sheep distribution scheme following allegations that some beneficiaries were cheated. A case was registered in December after some people filed complaints against the officials and middlemen, including two Assistant Directors of the Animal Husbandry Department and two contractors.

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The Sheep Rearing Development Scheme (SRDS) was launched by the state government in April 2017 to provide sustainable livelihood to the traditional shepherd families and improve their economic standard. Under the first phase, each family was given 20 sheep with a unit cost of Rs 1.25 lakh on a 75 per cent subsidy.

A total expenditure of Rs 4,980.31 crore was incurred for the implementation of the scheme.

A total of 82.74 lakh sheep were procured from other states and distributed among 3.92 lakh members of the Primary Sheep Breeders Co-operative Societies (PSBCS).

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report presented in state Assembly last week hinted at massive irregularities in implementation of the scheme. The report on general, social and economic sectors of Telangana for the year ended March 2021 suspected fraud in implementation of the scheme.

During test-check of implementation of the scheme in seven districts, the audit observed serious deficiencies like non-maintenance of beneficiary-wise files, non-availability of invoices in support of transportation of sheep; payments made on improper/manipulated invoices, invoices containing fake vehicle registration numbers and invoices showing transportation of higher number of sheep units than that was possible/permitted.

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In one instance, it found that a two-wheeler was used to transport as many as 126 sheep in a single trip. Two-wheelers, cars/vans, buses and even ambulances were claimed to have been used to transport sheep. Not just passenger vehicles, even fire trucks, water tankers, and mobile compressor vehicles were shown as used for transportation of sheep.

–IANS

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