Bhubaneshwar: A BJD leader and MLA has accused the Odisha government’s cooperation department of having allowed a Rs 800 crore scam in farm loans, media reports said on Monday. According to The Indian Express, the allegations have come from Paradeep MLA Damodar Rout, a seven-time MLA who has had various ministries under him over time. He was, however, removed from the agriculture department in December following protest against his remarks on Brahmins, said the daily. (Also read: Kejriwal Supports Hardik Pandya’s Demand For Farm Loan Waiver) Also Read - 'Should We Hang Ourselves If Vaccines Are Not Available' Asks Union Minister Sadananda Gowda
Rout, who has served as cooperation minister, has accused a political leader, who he calls the ‘Godfather’, of allegedly shielding the official responsible for the scam. “Though I had signed the file for an extension of the term of the official, I opposed and ordered an investigation after I came to know such irregularities. But the registrar (of the cooperation department) didn’t pay heed to me at the behest of the godfather,” Rout said. Also Read - 1.48 Crore Endangered Olive Ridley Turtles Born at Odisha's Gahirmatha Beach, Take Their First Steps | Watch
He said 60 per cent of the loans were used for non-agricultural purposes; the remaining 40 per cent existed only on paper. Headed by Surjya Narayan Patra, the cooperation department provides farmers with credit, inputs, crop insurance scheme, and storage and marketing support. Patra added, “I succeeded him (Rout) as the cooperation minister. The incidents he alludes to occurred before (my term). However, if he provides me more specific information, I am duty-bound to order an inquiry.” Also Read - Congress Decides to Postpone Party President Election Due to Pandemic
Rout’s allegations found support in the Congress and BJP. OPCC President Niranjan Patnaik wondered why the state government had not rejected Rout’s allegations. “They must order an inquiry,” he said. The BJP demanded a CBI investigation into the department’s activities. There had been reports an internal audit of the Odisha government that detected financial embezzlement amounting to nearly Rs 300 crore, committed by employees in various cooperative banks and societies, in January.