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Ready to Counter All Allegations with Facts, Says Medha Patkar, After FIR Over ‘Misuse’ of Funds

MP police has lodged an FIR against the NBA leader along with 11 others, alleging misuse of CSR funds for managing educational facilities for tribal students.
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Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh Police on Sunday lodged an FIR against Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA)  leader Medha Patkar along with 11 others in a case of fraud in the Barwani district.

On the complaint of one Pritamraj Badole of Temla Buzurg village, police have booked them under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on alleged misuse of funds collected for managing educational facilities for tribal students and diverting corporate social responsibility  (CSR) funds to provide food to the needy during COVID-19 lockdown. The complainant has alleged that Patkar and others diverted funds for their “political and anti-national agenda".

Those named in the FIR are Medha Patkar, Parveen Rumi Jahangir, Vijaya Chouhan, Kailash Awasya, Mohan Patidar, Ashish Mandloi, Kewal Singh Vasave, Sanjay Joshi, Shyam Patil, Sunit SR, Noorji Padvi and Keshav Vasave. Interestingly, Aashish Mandaloi, one of the accused in the FIR, passed away 12 years ago, on May 20, 2010, owing to cardiac arrest.

Badole has alleged that Narmada Navnirman Abhiyan (NNA), a trust registered in Mumbai, received Rs 13.52 crore from various sources in the past 14 years for running residential educational facilities for tribal students of the Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. These, he claims, were misused and that there are only shanties in the name of Narmada Jeevanshala. 

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The complaint in the FIR also alleges that during the COVID-19 lockdown, Patkar's trust spent over Rs 65 crore to provide food to children and workers of Narmada Jeevanshala, which they received from a firm under CSR funds. "The CSR funds can only be used for developmental projects and not for food. Hence, it is a misuse of funds," the copy of the FIR says.

The official sources of the trust, nonetheless, confirmed that as many as seven Narmada Jeevanshalas are functional -- six in Maharashtra's Nandurbar and one in Madhya Pradesh- and over 900 kids live there. "The CSR funds mentioned in the FIR are given to six Nandurbar's Jeevanshalas on recommendations of the district collector who gave permission to run the shelter during the lockdown to support children. An investigation into the CSR fund has already been done by the Nandurbar district officials, as it was recommended by the collector," the sources said. 

Brushing aside allegations that the complainant did not find any functioning Jeevanshalas upon visiting, a representative of a Jeevanshala said, "Apart from our seven centres, we have an active Facebook page which updates day to day functioning of the shelter home."

Barwani superintendent of police Deepak Kumar Shukla did not respond to Newsclick's call but he told PTI that the complainant has “provided some documents.”

“As the case is related to old transactions, a detailed investigation will be carried out,” he said.

“The case is related to two states – Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The documents and facts will be verified and all the parties concerned will be allowed to present their sides and facts. Further legal steps will be taken as per the facts that emerge during the investigation,” the SP said.

Speaking over the phone to NewsClick, Patkar dismissed the allegations saying the complainant is a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s  student wing Akhile Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).  "I'm ready to counter all the allegations with facts and have an audit of every single penny the organisation has received." 

"Similar attempts were made in the past to defame my organisation by making false allegations but we came clean every time," she said, adding that they, in fact, had won the case against the Delhi Lieutenant Governor since they had not accepted foreign money and that they always audit their bank accounts. “Even in the future, we will keep answering and putting forth the evidence." 

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"We have used the money to help people generate livelihood and will keep doing it. We have been charged with such allegations in the past as well. We do not accept CSR funds, however, it was only once when we accepted it from a Nandurbar collector and we have already registered the audit for the same," she added.

The FIR comes months after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament who hails from Barwani- Sumer Singh Solanki, referred to NBA and social and political groups of tribals in the state as “anti-national” and “anarchists”.

Solanki claimed to have succeeded in warding off their presence in the region as his achievement in the bio data, released by the state BJP on March 12, 2020. 

In his six-page long bio data, under the ‘Achievements’ section,  Solanki claimed, “Social and political organisations such as ‘Jai Aadivasi Yuva Sangathan (JAYS), Aadivasi Mukti Sangathan, NBA, Aadivasi Dalit Sangathan, Aadivasi Chantra Sangathan and Aadivasi Bhim Sena’ of the Malwa region are anarchists and engage in anti-national activities. And I very much succeeded in warding off their presence in the region for the last eight years. Many members of those organisations are now working with me.”

(With inputs from PTI.)

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