After Jan Dhan, Money Laundering In MNREGA Accounts? A View From Punjab

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After Jan Dhan, Money Laundering In MNREGA Accounts? A View From Punjab

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In Punjab's Sangrur district large amounts of cash being transferred into MNREGA accounts

Chandigarh:  As deposits in Jan Dhan accounts - suspected to be black money -- are reducing following warnings from the government, MNREGA accounts are suddenly flush with funds.

In Sangrur district of Punjab - where assembly polls will be held next year - show large amounts of cash being transferred into MNREGA accounts of labourers and withdrawn the same day. The farmer and trade unions are now demanding investigation into all the bank accounts.

The accounts at the State Bank of India were made by the government over the last two years to stop corruption - the non-payment and less payment of labourers, who till then, had been at the mercy of contractors.

At Rajo Majra village near Dhuri, around 250 labourers registered under the Centre's employment guarantee scheme, which guarantees an income to the poorest of the poor, had received cash ranging between Rs 10,000 and Rs 24,000 in their accounts.

The account of labourer Ram Chander - who earns Rs 200 a day  working under the MNRAGA scheme -- under the showed a cash deposit of Rs 10,000 on November 25. The entire amount was withdrawn same day.

Ram Chander said they had been asked to sign vouchers by a man from same village, Navpreet, who was accompanied by a couple of men.  "I was told the Modi government will deposit money into my account. I don't known Hindi and English, so I signed the voucher," he said.

"They are offering Rs 5,000 each to keep our mouth shut... the labourers have been threatened that they would not be employed under MNREGS," said Kirpal Singh, a leader of the local farmers' union.

The bank says it is inquiring into the matter. "We are investigating how this happened... the allegation that our employees are threatening the villagers is wrong," said Branch manager Rajesh Sabharwal.

Since the government's ban on high denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 on November 8, the Jan Dhan accounts across the country, which have not seen much activity since they were opened, suddenly witnessed a spurt of deposits. Between November 8 and December 2, Rs 37,000 crore has been deposited in the accounts.

As suspicions grew of laundering of black money, the government issued warnings and the Income Tax department became involved. The clusters and branches where these deposits were made have been identified and investigation will begin soon, sources said.

Today, Union minister Arun Jaitley pointed out that just depositing of black money in money does not turn it white and all such deposits will be subject to investigation.

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