State orders probe into cloth bag scam, swimming pool at DC bungalow, 2021 May COVID death audit
Bengaluru: After ordering an investigation in March this year into the alleged cloth bag scam where former Mysuru Deputy Commissioner (DC) and the present Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Rohini Sindhuri has been accused of misappropriation of funds, the State Government has appointed senior IAS Officer and Chairman of Bangalore Water Supply & Sewerage Board N. Jayaram as the Investigating Officer.
The order to this effect was issued on May 17 by Under Secretary, Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR) James Tharakan. Jayaram has been asked to submit his report within 30 days. Along with the alleged cloth bag scam, the State Government has also asked him to investigate the construction of a swimming pool and a gymnasium at the official residence of the Mysuru DC and also the reported disparity in death numbers during the peak of COVID-19 pandemic.
K.R. Nagar JD(S) MLA S.R. Mahesh had accused Rohini Sindhuri of corruption in the cloth bag distribution scheme as part of a plastic-free campaign in Mysuru district when she had served as Mysuru DC.
He had alleged that the IAS Officer had placed an order for 14.71 lakh cloth bags at a price of Rs. 52 a piece, which amounted to Rs. 7.65 crore, meant for distribution to households in all Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) of the district, including Mysuru City Corporation (MCC).
He had claimed that the cloth bags were actually available for Rs. 10 or Rs. 13 a piece in the retail market in Mysuru. Under the scheme, every household was to receive two bags — one with a capacity to carry 5 kg and another 10 kg, he said.
Alleging kickback in the scheme, which had led to a loss of more than Rs. 6 crore to the State Exchequer, Mahesh, who is also the Chairman of Karnataka Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Papers Laid on the Table, had contended that the scheme was taken up without bringing the matter to the notice of any ULBs in the district.
Mahesh had written to the State Government alleging misappropriation on Sept. 3, 2021. He also alleged that Rohini Sindhuri had not obtained the required permissions before the construction of a swimming pool at the DC’s official residence Jala Sannidhi on Hunsur Road at an estimated cost of Rs. 50 lakh.
Mahesh alleged that Sindhuri violated norms by not seeking permission from either the Heritage Department or the Empowered Heritage Committee before constructing the pool in a heritage property. Also, vitrified tiles were laid in the property in complete violation of heritage rules. He urged the State Government to make her pay for wasting public money.
But soon after the allegations surfaced, Rohini Sindhuri had dismissed the charges as false and unfounded. She had clarified that the work order for cloth bags distribution scheme was given to State-run Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation (KHDC) and added that the order was placed in compliance with Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements (KTPP) Act.
Also, she had defended the construction of an indoor swimming pool and said that construction of the pool was a pilot project under Nirmithi Kendra out of the Kendra’s own funds. It was a project to demonstrate the use of locally available materials by adopting low-cost, effective technology, she had stated.
Former Mysuru Deputy Mayor Shailendra had alleged that as per the death report from crematoriums and burial grounds, in May 2021, 969 people had died due to COVID but DC mentioned the figure as 238. He had written a letter to the Government on June 15, 2021 and also sought a probe into the role of Rohini Sindhuri as Mysuru DC into the deaths of 24 COVID patients at Chamarajanagar District Hospital due to lack of oxygen.