More than Rs70 crore meant for welfare of the Scheduled Caste has been diverted by the DMK government in Tamil Nadu to distribute free colour TVs, to fufill one of the promises made by the ruling party in its 2006 assembly election manifesto.
A petition filed by Virudachalam Ambazhagan, a social activist and Tamil journalist, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has brought out details, which are disturbing and shocking. The DMK government diverted funds to the tune of Rs74.91 crore from the welfare fund meant for Adi Dravidar, who come under Scheduled Caste category.
Many believe, the voters found the offers of free TV and Re1 per kg of rice irresistible and voted Karunanidhi’s party to power.
But the diversion of funds has raised many eyebrows. “It is a serious crime. You are not supposed to divert funds meant for the welfare of SC for any other purpose,” said C Umashankar, a young IAS officer who heads the government-run Arasu Cable TV Corporation Ltd.
The government has already distributed 1.62 crore colour TV sets. The last batch of 1 million sets are being dispatched. “The total cost of the project is approximately Rs3,500 crore. It was on February 24, 2011, that the government transferred Rs70.91 crore,” Ambazhagan said.
A senior government official, who did not wish to be quoted, said the money was as good as gone. “There is no guarantee that the amount would be reimbursed to the welfare fund,” he said.
Latha Priyakumar, member of National Commission for Scheduled Castes, expressed shock. “This is really disturbing. Hostels meant for Adi Dravidar students in the state are in a dilapidated condition,” Priyakumar, who is also a Congress leader from Tamil Nadu, said.