NREGA site hacked, Rs 5 lakh embezzled in Odisha

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Balangir, Feb 7:

A unique case of cyber crime has been detected in Odisha’s Balangir district. The website has been hacked and money to the tune of around Rs five lakh withdrawn in the name of fake beneficiaries from the MGNREGA accounts of the Forest and Horticulture departments in Balangir district, police sources said.

File Pic
File Pic

Notably, two employees in each department are authorized to access and operate their department’s accounts on the website. These employees are issued with digital signature certificates (DSC) for operating these accounts on the website.

Money has been withdrawn in the name of fake MNREGA beneficiaries from the MNREGA accounts of Forest and Horticulture departments in Balangir district in October last year. While Rs 3.5 lakh has been withdrawn from Forest department’s account, Rs 1.5 lakh has been withdrawn from the Horticulture department’s account in October, police sources said.

The fraud could be to the tune of about Rs 10 lakh, said sources adding that this could be the tip of the iceberg and several lakhs could have been withdrawn in the name of fake beneficiaries.

“ As per the bank transaction records, money transfers have been made in the month of October. Around Rs 1.5 lakh has been transferred in our department’s case,” said R Nayak, DFO Balangir.

“I don’t think employees of our department are involved. Still, the matter is under investigation. Rs 3.27 lakh has been withdrawnfFrom our department’s accounts. These transfers have not been made using digital signatures of employees from our department. Somebody else’s DSC has been used and it’s being investigated by the police,” said R Dasmohapatra, an official of the Horticulture department in Balangir.

It may be mentioned here that MNREGA fund is first transferred from the Central government to the state government to the departments concerned and from departments to the districts to different departments and lastly to the beneficiaries accounts. It’s now being probed under whose digital signature the accounts were hacked.

“Digital signature is on a glass and is sent in a packet which is opened at the other end. Hacking by any other intermediary is very difficult. There might be flaws at other levels,” said R N Behera, technical officer NREGS.

The money has been withdrawn by opening accounts at the SBI’s Patnagarh branch, said sources.

Despite the incident being four months old, these two departments have lodged FIRs at the Balangir Town police station only a week back.

Police said the involvement of employees of the concerned departments could not be ruled out.

“Involvement of any government employee cannot be ruled out. Yes we are suspecting involvement of a few people. We are inquiring to find out whose digital signature was used. We have written to our higher authorities,” said B Jugal Kishore, ASP Balangir.

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