News Courtesy: DNA, Mumbai, March 9 2016
More than 12 people arrested * Tribal dept forms SIT for investigation
The lid is just off Maharashtra’s biggest tribal scam. More than 10 lakh non-tribals from the state and neighbouring Telangana have obtained fake caste certificates, and many of them have even secured government jobs and college admissions due for tribals.
The scam came to light after the subdivisional magistrate (SDM), Kinwat, in Nanded, Dr Rajendra Bharud, grew suspicious about the claims made by two persons – Ankush Tanaji Rekhewad and Gajanan Subhas Somewad – who applied for tribal certificates.
dna learns that more than 12 people, including the two, have been arrested in connection with the scam so far, and the tribal development department has set up a special investigation team (SIT), headed by tribal development commisioner Sambhajirao Surkunde, to probe the matter.
“This is perhaps the biggest caste scam till date. Fraudsters have not only grabbed benefits they didn’t deserve but also deprived those who needed it. Kolam is a tribe who still lives in forests. All angles are being probed,” Surkunde said.
He added that the scam would have flourished after 1976 when the tribal reservation rules were revised. “Before 1976, only tribals who stayed in scheduled areas were given caste certificates. This restriction was removed, given themigration of the tribals for jobs and other reasons. This change was misused by people.”
The Nanded administration believes that this change in rule and “easy access” to fake certificates encouraged people from neighbouring Telangana (then Andhra Pradesh) to cross over and settle in Maharashtra.
“The matter is extremely sensitive and spans through five decades,” Dr Bharud told dna over phone.
The SDM, Kinwat, is also probing the matter. The roles played by revenue officials in Nanded, Chandrapur, Yavatmal, Jalgaon, Thane and Pune and in some other areas of the state since the 1970s are being looked into.
Kolam (Munnarwarlu), Dongar Koli (or Mahadeo Koli) and Koli Dhor (or Tokare Koli) are the three tribes on whom the maximum frauds have been committed.
About the modality of the fraudsters, Dr Bharud said: “The Kolis, who come under OBCs, added a prefix of Mahadeo to claim tribal quota (Mahadeo Koli) while the Mannerwar tribe added “lu” (Mannerwarlu) to do so.
“Our investigation into the tribal villages of Kinwat found that most of these so-called tribals neither speak the tribal language Kolami nor Marathi. They speak Telugu. The Maharashtra government’s report of 1985 also stated how Kolam and Munnarwar differ from each other in surnames, food, culture etc,” Dr Bharud said.
Over 1.5 lakh fake tribal certificates are supposed to have been issued in Nanded alone.
Interestingly, had the authorities looked at one piece of statistics, the fraud could have been checked much earlier. From a few hundreds in the 1960s, the state saw the population of the three tribes growing 10-20 fold in the 1990s, thanks to the scam. This steep rise in census figures is now being held as a major proof.
How it unfolded
In 2013, Ankush Tanaji Rekhewad and Gajanan Subhas Somewad applied for tribal caste certificates (Mahadev Koli) at the Kinwat SDM office. The then SDM rejected their applications for want of crucial documents like caste validity of blood relatives and Annexure ‘C’ (Khasra Pahani Patrak). Rekhewad and Somewad then appealed at the scheduled caste validity committee, Aurangabad.
While their petition was still under process, the duo submitted a fake order of the Aurangabad committee to the Kinwat SDM, stating that the committee had approved the issuance of their certificates.
However, the word ‘may issue’ made the SDM doubtful and he sought to verify the same with the Aurangabad committee in January this year.
A member of the committee, Gaikwad, then filed a case at the Kinwat police station on January 22, 2016. The investigations into the case led to the arrests, which include the duo’s accomplice, Ramesh Boinwad, for forging the bogus order using fake stamps and signatures.
Tribals and ‘fake tribals’ stir, tensions rise
The issue saw a high point last week in Kinwat when ‘fake tribals’ held a road show to oppose the ‘injustice’ of the district administration. This was followed by another road show by the tribals on March 4 demanding ‘justice’, accusing the other side of eating into their employmemnt and educational benefits. Tribals in India enjoy 7% quota in higher educational institutions, including IITs and medical colleges, and in government jobs.
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