NREGA site hacking: Odisha police detain mastermind, aide

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bolangir, Feb 10:

Police on Sunday detained a former computer programmer for committing financial fraud amounting to Rs 10 lakh by hacking the web portal of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in Odisha’s Bolangir district.

dharmendra thakurPolice detained the computer programmer Dharmendra Thakur, a former contractual progarmmer at Belpada block who was sacked on corruption charges, and his aide Sujit Arawal, an employee of the Patnagarh branch of SBI on Sunday and have begun interrogation.

Sources in the police said that Thakur has confessed to his fraudulent act.

Thakur had managed to get the all important digital signature certificate (DSC) by furnishing a forged authorisation letter which  went undetected by Nationnal Informatics Centre (NIC), which handles the portal, police said.

The DSC, it may be noted, is an electronic document required to access the site and transfer funds from the account for the flaship rural job guarantee programme.

“Thakur first downloaded the form to apply for the DSC and applied for the DSC in the name of one Jagabandhu Sahu by using his voter ID card. Next, he forged the signature of the Belpada BDO on the photo and went to the office of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) office in Bhubaneswar and managed to obtain the DSC. With the help of the DSC, he hacked the NREGA portal and withdrew money from the NREGA account from October last year and deposited it the bank account of Sahu at the SBI’s Patnagarh branch,” said a police officer.

Having worked in Belpada block in the past, Thakur knew the login IDs and passworsd of several government departments and used this knowledge to telling effect to hack the NREGA site and pilfer money out of it fraudulently, he added.

NIC officials are now scratching their heads wondering how a system they thought was foolproof was breached so easily by a rank outsider.

The incident came to the fore following a complaint by DFO Rashmi Ranjan Nayak and deputy director, Horticulture, Ranjan Dasmohapatra with the Bolangir Town police on February 7.

They alleged that Rs 4 lakh from the the Forest and Horticulture departments meant for payment to the beneficiaries under the NREGA scheme in the district had been fraudulently transferred to the account of Jagabandhu Sahu in the SBI, Patnagarh branch.

The state government, after receiving money from the Centre under NREGA,   distributes the amount to the districts where the work is underway. The concerned district administration later puts the amount in the account of various departments who pay the wages to the beneficiaries through their DSC.

Meanwhile, a cyber crime team is scheduled to visit the district soon to probe into the case.

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