Bhopal: The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has been reeling under a financial crisis since its formation. The state has a debt of Rs 1.87 lakh crore, and major flagship promises of the government like loan waiver, unemployment allowance to youths, opening of gaushalas (cowsheds), etc. are on hold. However, the government has been paying Rs 3 crore a month to the already dismantled Jan Abhiyan Parishad (JAP).
Jan Abhiyan Parishad, an independent organisation was set up under the Department of Planning, Economic Affairs and Statistics by the Digvijay Singh government in 1997. It flourished under the former Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in order to implement the state government policies. But it was disabled by the Congress government due to alleged association with the Rashtriya Swayamseval and Bharatiya Janata Party.
In the campaign ahead of the Assembly election in November 2018, Congress (then in Opposition) had alleged that the organisation is marred with irregularities and has been campaigning for then ruling party, BJP. The then opposition party had also stated that 500 members of this organisation were working on contractual basis and despite the imposition of Model Code of Conduct for Assembly polls, they were regularly flouting all rules. Congress had even lodged a complaint with the election commission in this regard. However, even after a year since the Kamal Nath-led Congress government took charge, around 600 employees of JAP are still being paid by the state government without any work.
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On November 2, 2018, the Panna district collector had written to the chief electoral officer of Madhya Pradesh, saying that the Parishad’s district coordinator, Suresh Varman, was caught by policemen with BJP’s promotional material in his car on October 28. The collector cited this as a violation of the Model Code of Conduct—the elections were announced on October 6—as the Parishad was formed as a government arm, not to serve as a particular political party’s campaigning organisation.
The Panna superintendent of police, writing on the same case to election officials, said that when Varman was asked by policemen about his occupation, he had replied that he “ran an NGO”, as reported by The Telegraph.
Following this, the State Election Commission had barred the Parishad from conducting any meeting in Madhya Pradesh, chief electoral officer VL Kantha Rao had said. He said the poll panel had instructed the government to ensure that the NGO does not take part in any political activity.
After Congress formed the government in the state defeating BJP in the Assembly election, the JAP was dismantled. But, despite dismantling the organisation, the government has continued to pay its employees to the tune of Rs 36 crore in one year.
Planning Economic Affairs and Statistics Minister, Tarun Bhanot, in September had recommended handing over the probe of Jan Abhiyan Parishad to the Economic Offence Wing based on a report of the Controller and Auditor General. The department had also recommended for its closure. Bhanot had also said that he cannot comment on the closure of Jan Abhiyan Parishad as a decision has to be taken at the highest level, but the government would be engaging its employees and they would not be paid without any work.
At least twice the council’s governing body meeting was cancelled by the Congress government. The first meeting was scheduled in February, which was postponed. Another meeting was scheduled in September, but that too was cancelled leaving the decision on the future of the council hanging in air.
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According to sources, senior BJP leaders requested CM not to shut it after which the meeting was not held. They also said that the government did not want to spark protests by the Parishad employees, hence it put the plans for its closure on hold.