Vol. 6 | Issue 3 | June 2012
Loot, Loot & Loot in MP
With long-pending corruption cases against many IAS officers in Madhya Pradesh, it seems that they can get away with anything in the state
by Ravindra Dubey
What does the abbreviation IAS stand for? Indian Administrative Service, one would answer. But this is the formal and official interpretation and is just too simplistic an answer. In fact, it has several meanings – ‘I Am Safe’ for one.
It is a common belief that an IAS officer is beyond any harm. The perception is that nothing can be done against him (or her) and he (or she) can get away with anything. At least that is what it looks like in Madhya Pradesh.
There seems to be a total babu raj in the state and it looks like if you are a bureaucrat, you can get away with any amount of corruption. This is happening in a state where the BJP, otherwise a ‘party with a difference’, is ruling for the second term.
“This is the golden era of bureaucracy in Madhya Pradesh which is powerful as never before,” says Shyam Awasthi, a senior journalist and Editor of Sputnik magazine. The senior newsman, who has kept a keen eye on the developments in the state for last three decades, is of the opinion that governance of the state has deteriorated gradually since 1980 when Arjun Singh had the reins of power.
Awasthi feels the situation reached its nadir during Digvijay Singh’s tenure as Chief Minister when, according to him, the development of the state was put on the backburner and corruption came to the fore. “Shivraj Singh Chauhan has continued the same trend of governance,” he adds. He cites many examples.
Funds meant for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), a scheme that ensures hundred days of work to the rural poor, have allegedly been diverted thanks to a few bureaucrats. Investigations reveal that finances sanctioned and released under NREGA were utilised for projects that existed only on paper.
Had it not been for some overenthusiastic clerk who did not know that the month of June has only 30 days, the scam could have taken years to come to the light. Records show that bulk payments were made to workers under NREGA on dates like June 31.
Then Collectors of Tikamgarh and Bhind, K P Rahi (1998) and S S Ali respectively, were subjected to a departmental inquiry in 2008 for diverting Rs 3 crore of NREGA funds ostensibly to buy photocopiers and mats for Panchayats. Rahi was later suspended.
In January 2008, Pradeep Bhargava, the then additional chief secretary with the Panchayat and Rural Development Department of Madhya Pradesh had recommended action against two IAS officers, Sukhbeer Singh, who was then the collector of Sidhi, and Chandrasekhar Borkar, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sidhi district Panchayat, for their alleged involvement in irregularities in NREGA schemes worth Rs 255.87 lakh. But for nearly four years, no action was taken against them as the Rural Development Department allegedly kept sitting on the matter.
Interestingly, in some cases the government, instead of taking action on the guilty officers, allegedly awarded them with the plum postings. Take the case of Chaturbhuj (CB) Singh, for instance. Two cases have been pending against him in state Lokayukta, but instead of taking action against him or giving the permission to Lokayukta to proceed against him, the state government has appointed him as Collector, Vidisha. Mind you, Vidisha is the home district of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and the parliamentary constituency of leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj.
In some cases the government, instead of taking action on the
guilty officers, allegedly awarded them with the plum postings
These examples are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Another promotee officer Anju Singh Baghel (1993) allegedly allowed exchange of land between the state government and Mohammad Abbas, a marble trader, causing a huge loss to exchequer when she was the Collector of Katni. She allegedly allowed prime government land on a highway to be exchanged with another freshly purchased piece of land of a lower value. She was later suspended for this as FIRs had been registered with the State Investigation Bureau of Economic Offences for criminal conspiracy and under Prevention of Corruption Act.
We began this article with a discussion on the full form of the abbreviation IAS. It apparently also means ‘I Am Supreme’. Here is an example: In one case, the Supreme Court ordered the State Investigation Bureau of Economic Offences to probe corruption charges against yet another high profile IAS officer and state’s Health Secretary Sudhir Ranjan Mohanty (1982) in a whopping Rs 719 crore scam.
During the reign of the all-powerful AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh, the State Industrial Development Corporation allegedly gave Rs719 crore as loans to 42 companies but did not insist on any guarantee. Now the amount with interest has swelled to a staggering Rs 2,200 crore.
When the BJP came to power in 2003, the State Investigation Bureau of Economic offences filed a criminal case against two bureaucrats, two Congress ministers and all the 42 defaulters. Mohanty challenged it in the MP High Court that quashed the FIR against him on the basis of an affidavit submitted by the state government giving him a clean chit. Later, the BJP government withdrew the affidavit. The investigation bureau appealed in the Supreme Court against the High Court order. The apex court ordered a fresh probe against Mohanty.
Mohanty, who was allegedly close to Digvijay Singh and had been the Collector of Indore, is still a Secretary while officers of the 1987 batch have been promoted to the post of Principal Secretary.
Mohanty is the not the only officer against whom the Supreme Court has ordered a fresh probe. A batchmate of Mohanty is also in trouble. The apex court has ordered resumption of proceedings under the Prevention of Corruption Act against another 1982 batch IAS officer Raghav Chandra, who is at present serving as Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Surface Transport, and others.
This case also relates to Digvijay Singh’s regime in early 2000 when Raghav Chandra was the Commissioner of MP Housing Board. Under his direction, the Housing Board allegedly purchased land from a private party for construction of houses at Katni. The transaction apparently resulted in a loss to the government to the tune of crores of rupees. Katni Collector Shahjad Khan and Ram Meshram, who was posted as the Land Acquisition Officer in the MP Housing Board, were allegedly Chandra’s main accomplices.
THE case of the IAS couple, Arvind Joshi and Tinoo Joshi, has already made nationwide headlines. Chief Minister Chauhan has recently recommended their dismissal to the union government. A lot has already beenpublished on the amount of cashand the property documents recovered from their residence in Bhopal. But what was interesting was the involvement of an insurance agent. Bureaucrats and ministers, who had taken insurance policies from the former ICICI Prudential’s assistant area manager Seema Jaiswal, were startled to find themselves under the scanner of the Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta.
Lokayukta Special Police Establishment (SPE) wrote a letter to the company’s Mumbai office seeking details of policies sold in MP by its former agent Seema. “A separate inquiry had to be initiated against the government officers to ascertain the source of income invested in the policies,” said a Lokayukta official. Seema hit the headlines following simultaneous raids on her residence and office during I-T crackdown on the IAS couple in February 2010. Policies worth crores were allegedly found from her place. Investigations revealed that Joshi was depositing Rs 3.55 crore as life insurance premium annually with ICICI Prudential. To hide their identity in policies, the Joshis used to fudge addresses, including those of Seema Jaiswal and her brother.
Investigations revealed that Seema had engaged the wives of several government officers in MP as insurance agents. With the results she generated through her proximity to the wives of officials in departments like the Water Resources, PWD and MP Road Development Corporation, she got promoted to branch manager (sales) of the insurance company within a short period.
Officials claim that by engaging the wives of government officials, Jaiswal ensured that her flow of income did not stop after her induction as a regular employee. The branch did well and so did Seema by allegedly parking ill-gotten money through agent-wives.
Seema deliberately helped IAS officers in getting insurance policies without following KYC&AML norms, an officer said. “Like the Joshis, several other government officers devised the strategy to convert black money into white with the help of this insurance agent,” he said.
It will be relevant to mention here that cases have been pending with the special police establishment of Lokayukta in the state against as many as 55 IAS officers, a situation that is unprecedented. g