Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA from Madhya Pradesh, Rambai Singh, has stoked a controversy by allegedly telling officials that they can accept "voluntarily offered" bribes like a "pinch of salt in flour" but it is not permissible "if you snatch the entire Thali (food plate)" from people. A video of the conversation between Singh and some villagers from her constituency Patharia in the Damoh district in the presence of state Panchayat officials has gone viral on social media. Singh told the officials to return the money they had allegedly taken from some villagers, who alleged they had to pay the bribe of varying amounts to get the funds released under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. This video was shot on Sunday at Sataua village which falls under the Patharia assembly segment.
The viral video clip shows Singh, sitting in a room, asking who paid the money to get the funds released under the PM Awas Yojana, when at least six villagers sitting on the floor stand up, saying they had paid between Rs 5,000 to Rs 9,000 each. The MLA then asks whom they paid the money to which the villagers pointed fingers towards two men (Panchayat Secretary and Rojgar Sahayak) sitting on chairs in the room.
Later, she was heard telling both the officials that "there would have been no problem if you took Rs 500 or Rs 1,000. See, it works like salt in the flour. But, it is not permissible if you snatch the entire Thali (food plate) from them (villagers)". Singh told the officials that these villagers work hard to earn Rs 6,000 per month and go far away in other states to earn a livelihood, which they (officials) took away. Singh later told them to return the money. Singh later asked the officials to return the money to villagers. When asked about the incident, Damoh district collector S Krishna Chaitanya said he had not received any complaint so far. Krishna Chaitanya said he had directed Patharia janpad CEO to inquire into the allegations levelled by villagers after the video surfaced.
When contacted, the BSP MLA told PTI on Tuesday that a “similar situation” prevails in the government system across Madhya Pradesh and India. “I have got the money (paid by people as a bribe) returned on several occasions. I don’t need to raise a complaint but sort out the matter on the spot. If I complain, senior officials will take money from these employees to settle the issue. I don’t want to create problems for them and sort it out on the spot,” she said.
Claiming that a complaint (against bribery) doesn’t yield any results, the BSP leader said several officials and employees get suspended in such incidents but they are reinstated after some time. “The Panchayat secretary and the Rojgar Sahayak earn meagre salaries while inflation is high. If they are coming from a distance to villages, they can accept the money if someone gives them voluntarily but they can’t force the villagers to cough up Rs 9,000 or Rs 10,000. This is what I said,” she added.