Odisha police arrest two in NREGA site hacking case

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bolangir, Feb 11:

Two days after they were detained, Dharmendra Thakur, a former contractual computer progarmmer at Belpada block, and his aide Sujit Agarwal, an employee of the Patnagarh branch of SBI, were arrested by police in Odisha’s Bolangir district today for their complicity in the MGNREGA website hacking case.

Dharmendra Thakur
Dharmendra Thakur

Briefing media persons about the arrest of Thakur and Agrawal this morning, Bolangir additional SP B Jugal Kishore did not rule out more arrests in the case.

Curiously, Thakur himself told the media that there were others involved in the farud. “Such a thing cannot happen without the involvement of people at various levels. But it will be better if you ask the police about it,” he said.

‘‘Thakur had accessed the user ID and password to get access to accounts of various departments. He had opened 31 fake beneficiary accounts in the Patnagarh SBI. He obtained the DSC by presenting fake dcouments in the name of one Jagabandhu Sahu, who he projected as the EO of Tentapada panchayat. But how he managed to get the DSC is still under investigation,” sub divisional police officer (SDPO) Narayan Nayak said.

Meawnhile, the experts from NIC’s New Delhi headquarters, which had come for on the spot investigation into how the hacking happened, has gone back to Bhubaneswar to have talks with officials of NIC’s regional centre in the Odisha capital.

They met the district collector and also visited the DRDA office yesterday, official sources said.

It may be mentioned that Dharmendra was sacked a year ago from the block office for alleged fraudulent practices.

The accused got unauthorised access to www.nrega.nic.in and withdrew money to the tune of over Rs 5 lakh in the name of fake beneficiaries. Dharmendra Thakur had opened as many as 31 fake accounts at Patnagarh SBI branch with the help of his aide Sujit Agarwal, police said.

Dharmendra managed to obtain the digital signature certificate (DSC) by furnishing a forged authorisation letter which went undetected by National Informatics Centre (NIC), which handles the portal, police said.

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

“Dharmendra 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, Dharmendra knew the login IDs and passwords 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.

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 5 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.

Notably, the state government, after receiving money from the Centre under MGNREGA, 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.

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