Aadhaar Scam: Adivasis in Jharkhand lured using PM’s Ujjwala scheme, lakhs siphoned off

Several Adivasis across five villages in Godda district were duped under the guise of the Prime Minister’s Ujjwala Yojana, which promised to give poor women gas cylinders

Ashlin Mathew

Several Adivasis across five villages in Godda district were duped under the guise of the Prime Minister’s Ujjwala Yojana, which promised to give poor women gas cylinders. This was their meagre earnings after having worked under the MNREGA scheme.

On February 28, 2019, several men had reached Sunderpahari village in Godda stating that they were from the Jharkhand government and had come to provide free gas connection under the Ujjwala Yojana. As the word got around in the village, at least 70% of the women came to enrol.

They were informed that they would have to sign on a form, and they would require their Aadhaar card, bank passbook and a passport-sized photo as proof. After, the women had filled the forms, they were asked to authenticate their biometric details on a PoS machine. Almost all the women had these documents as Jharkhand had made it mandatory for the poor to take Aadhaar cards and link it with their bank accounts if they had to get their wages and ration. The women were informed that they would get their connections in a few days

However, when these women went to the bank to withdraw money to pay the school fees for their children, they found out all their money was withdrawn, and their accounts had no balance.

Savina Murmu, who had ₹16,000 in her account, has only ₹1,000 in it now, from Maku Murmu’s account, ₹16,000 vanished and from Manjhan Murmu’s account ₹5,300. And these are just three names.

From the neighbouring villages Chandana and Bodwa too people have lost their money. From Bodwa many including Manju Hembram (₹20,000); from Chandana Sohagini Hembram (₹4,100), Sarita Baski (₹4900), Parwati Devi (₹4100), Jeetani Devi (₹9,300), Kunti Devi (₹4,900), Basanti Devi (₹2,400), Sona Murmu (₹5,300) and Sunita Kisku (₹15,000).

From one block ₹1.5 lakh was siphoned, from another ₹27,000 and from a few other blocks ₹3 lakh. The highest amount to have been siphoned off was ₹20,000 as none of the villagers had more than that.

Several others had also given their details, but the money was siphoned off only from those who had linked their bank details with the Aadhaar card. And all of their bank accounts were with State Bank of India.

How the scam unravelled?

With the help of a local NGO, they approached the bank to get the account statements of all those who had lost their money. After much persuasion, the bank manager found that all the transactions were enabled using a CSP (customer service point).

A CSP is a banking outlet run by an outsourced agency for carrying out limited transactions. Jandhan accounts, small RD accounts, Atal Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Insurance Schemes are opened here. Customers can also withdraw and deposit money at CSPs.

After a quick search, it was found that the CSP was fake and that from that CSP, all the money was transferred to an individual account. The bank officials were able to unearth the name of the person – Suman Shrivastav. Armed with these details, the villagers approached the police officers, who were initially reluctant to file a case. After four hours of being at the station and three applications later, an FIR was filed.

After a few days, the police said they arrested three members of the 15-member gang, which they said was involved in this duplicity. However, no money has been recovered and none of the villagers have got money that vanished from their accounts.

Living with the horrors of the Jharkhand-government imposed Aadhaar card is becoming the new normal for the vulnerable population in the state.

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