The Raja Who Stole From The Poor

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As food and civil supplies minister in the previous SP regime, Raja Bhaiya swindled Rs 100 crore from the PDS. As he presides over the food ministry once again, Ashish Khetan exposes the shocking loot

A LITTLE MORE than a month ago, Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, earned a landslide victory on the idea of hope: Ummeed ki cycle. He had promised clean governance and a corruption-free government. When he refused to give the dreaded DP Yadav a ticket, he sent a signal that he meant business. But some of his gloss was lost on the day he was sworn in. His inclusion of the notorious Raja Bhaiya in his Cabinet as prisons and food and civil supplies minister created an uproar in the media. If Raja Bhaiya’s appointment was driven by political expediency, here’s incontrovertible proof why Akhilesh must confront and overcome that expediency. TEHELKA now exposes why he should not even be in the Cabinet and definitely not as food minister again. His rightful place, it appears, should be in jail and not the Uttar Pradesh Secretariat.

In the last Samajwadi Party regime (2003-07), under Mulayam Singh Yadav, Raja Bhaiya was food minister and presided over the crucial PDS scheme.

In a shocking revelation, a close aide of Raja Bhaiya has told the CBI and the Supreme Court that in his last stint, the controversial minister had presided over a well-oiled network of stealing and smuggling of PDS foodgrain and made a personal fortune of over Rs 100 crore in less than four years. The total magnitude of the foodgrain scam, which stretches over a period of more than a decade, could run up to a staggering Rs 2 lakh crore. To support his claims, the witness has produced a sensational diary in which entries of illicit money received were meticulously maintained. And — in an act of utter brazenness — each illegal entry, the entire illegal book-keeping has allegedly been countersigned by Raja Bhaiya’s wife. This is a story that shows how the idea of electoral democracy is corrupted and subverted. This story is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with our representative democracy — the abuse of power and authority, criminalisation of electoral politics and the nexus of mass leaders with murderers and gangsters. This is how the story unfolds.

Sometime in December 2011, Rajiv Yadav, 38, who was the public relations officer (PRO) of Kunwar Raghuraj Pratap Singh, notorious by the name of Raja Bhaiya, walked into the CBI office at Hazratganj, Lucknow, and handed over a copy of a diary. It was the diary that Yadav and Ashok Kumar, another senior officer of the Secretariat Administration cadre, had maintained between 2006 and ’07 while they were part of the official staff of Raja Bhaiya, who was the food minister.

Some of this money was invested in properties and luxury cars. Yadav has provided the details of two such properties of which he has personal knowledge: bungalows in Green Park, New Delhi, and MG Road, Lucknow. “In 2004-05, a trust by the name of Ramjanki Trust was registered at Allahabad in which Raja Bhaiya and his family members were trustees. Some money was transferred to the trust with which a bungalow was leased at 214, MG Marg, Lucknow. In 2007, a bungalow at 7-B, Green Park Extension in Delhi was purchased in the name of Raja Bhaiya’s wife,” Yadav said in his affidavit.

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The Making Of A Hinterland Don

• Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiya, is a five-time independent MLA from Kunda constituency in Pratapgarh

• The feudal lord of Benti village first made headlines in 1992 for his alleged involvement in communal riots during the BJP rule in Uttar Pradesh

• While campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, the then BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh described Raja Bhaiya as ‘Kunda ka gunda

• In 1996, when the governor refused to invite the BJP to form the government, Raja Bhaiya extended his support and was rewarded with a Cabinet berth

• In 2002, after he had allegedly threatened an independent MLA for supporting the Mayawati government, he was jailed

• Raja Bhaiya was booked under POTA after cops found an AK-56 and explosives from his palace. In the same year, there were 44 cases against him

• His father Udai Pratap Singh and his associate and MLC Akshay Pratap Singh were also jailed along with him, where they remained for over a year

• In 2003, Mulayam Singh Yadav said all cases against Raja Bhaiya were fabricated by the Mayawati regime and promised to release him when he became CM

• True to his promise, after becoming CM, Mulayam released Raja Bhaiya and made him food and civil supplies minister

• Raja Bhaiya’s nomination papers show his age as 38. If that were true, he was 19 when he first became an MLA in 1993. The permissible age for a contestant is 25

• Raja Bhaiya still has as many as eight cases of attempt to murder, abduction and dacoity pending against him

• Nine years after Mulayam made him minister, Raja Bhaiya has been given the twin charges of prisons and food & civil supplies in Akhilesh Yadav’s Cabinet

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For almost four years, Yadav and, in his absence, Kumar, had meticulously kept records and made diary entries of the cash received from the sale of stolen foodgrain and kerosene, which fair price shops (FPS) were allocated at subsidised rates under the Public Distribution System (PDS). Yadav has submitted one such diary pertaining to the period of 2006-07 to the CBI. As minister, Raja Bhaiya’s core responsibility was to oversee the functioning of the PDS and ensure that the subsidised foodgrain was efficiently and honestly distributed to the rural and urban poor, a majority of them living below the poverty line. “These stolen articles were either smuggled to countries like Bangladesh and Nepal or sold in the black market of other states,” Yadav told the CBI in a sworn affidavit.

According to Yadav, the money was collected by Raja Bhaiya’s four important aides: Akshay Pratap Singh alias Gopal Singh (who was at the time a Samajwadi Party MP from Pratapgarh), Yashvant Singh (the then Member of Legislative Council), Jayesh Prasad (who was then a Samajwadi MLC and at present a BSP MLC) and Rohit Singh (Raja Bhaiya’s driver). The money was handed over to Yadav, who used to stay at Raja Bhaiya’s personal bungalow at Shahnajaf Road in Lucknow. During his entire tenure as a minister, Raja Bhaiya used this address as his official residence.

“Soon after being sworn in as the food and civil supplies minister in 2004, my minister told me that in the first week of every month, the above four would hand over the cash collected from the PDS mafia and state employees, which I, in turn, was supposed to hand over to the minister’s wife Bhanvi Kumari,” Yadav told the CBI.

But before handing the cash to Kumari, Yadav made entries of all the cash inflow in a diary maintained by him. “For the sake of record-keeping and clarity, in case there was any dispute with regard to money collected, Bhanvi Kumari used to countersign all the entries,” Yadav told CBI Superintendent of Police Sanjay Ratan at his Lucknow office last December. Three months later, Yadav retold this chilling story to TEHELKA in Delhi.

The diary shows that in a period of less than 15 months between 2006 and ’07, Raja Bhaiya had earned roughly Rs 40 crore in cash coming in from the smuggling of PDS foodgrain and kerosene, from the monthly fixed amount received from the Weights and Measures wing and transfers and postings of departmental officials. Raja Bhaiya was minister for around 40 months. Yadav told TEHELKA that he had personally received over Rs 100 crore from the stealing of foodgrain meant for the poor during this period. “The entire money was handed over to his wife,” said Yadav.

According to Yadav, as soon as he received the money, it was sorted and handed over to Kumari. TEHELKA asked Yadav why the money was not directly handed over to Kumari instead of Yadav acting as a go-between. He replied that in Raja Bhaiya’s family, the women avoid interacting with men who were not part of the family and that’s why he was appointed as a buffer. “Also it would have perhaps been embarrassing for mantriji to expose his wife to the daily collection of money,” said Yadav.

Some of this money was invested in properties and luxury cars. Yadav has provided the details of two such properties of which he has personal knowledge: bungalows in Green Park, New Delhi, and MG Road, Lucknow. “In 2004-05, a trust by the name of Ramjanki Trust was registered at Allahabad in which Raja Bhaiya and his family members were trustees. Some money was transferred to the trust with which a bungalow was leased at 214, MG Marg, Lucknow. In 2007, a bungalow at 7-B, Green Park Extension in Delhi was purchased in the name of Raja Bhaiya’s wife,” Yadav said in his affidavit.

RAJA BHAIYA had allegedly also devised an innovative modus operandi of converting some of this black money into white. Yadav has disclosed in his affidavit that bogus insurance policies and bank accounts were opened in the name of the teachers and others employed at the private schools owned by Raja Bhaiya’s family. “More than Rs 7.5 crore was deposited over a period of four years in these insurance policies, which on maturity was handed back to Raja Bhaiya’s family. One such policy was also opened in my name,” Yadav had said. He has given the CBI the name of the insurance company and the agent code under which the policies were opened.

This affidavit has now been produced before the Supreme Court in an ongoing petition demanding a court-monitored CBI probe into the scam. In the same affidavit, Yadav has affirmed that luxury SUVs, such as Lexus, Ford Endeavour, Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero, were bought with this money. “Most of the cars were registered in benami names,” he said.

A copy of the sensational diary has reached the apex court. TEHELKA perused this diary and found that detailed entries of money received from different divisions and districts were maintained date-wise. Some entries also carry subheads under which the money was categorised.

For instance, one of the pages is divided into four columns under the subheading PDS. This page has entries of the alleged money received from Lucknow, Moradabad, Kanpur and Bareilly divisions. It shows that around Rs 58 lakh was received from the pilferage of PDS foodgrain in January-July 2006 from Lucknow, Moradabad and Kanpur. The same page shows that a total of Rs 13.6 lakh was received from Bareilly district in February-July 2006. The next page records a receipt of Rs 13.5 lakh from the smuggling of foodgrain from Meerut, Saharanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi divisions in February-July 2006. The following page carries the entries of Rs 40.70 lakh collected from Goraphkur, Basti and Devipatan divisions.

Another page shows the monthly receipt of Rs 4 lakh from the Weights and Measures wing in May-December 2006. “There was not much money to be made from weights and measures, so the wing was told to give us a fixed amount of Rs 4 lakh every month,” Yadav told TEHELKA. Yet another page has entries of monthly money received from the Regional Marketing Officer (RMO), Lucknow.

The RMO’s job is to supervise the procurement of rice and wheat by the state government at the minimum support price (MSP). The scheme’s objective is to support marginal farmers with small landholdings by procuring their produce at the MSP. The money received from the government helps these farmers to buy seeds and fertilisers for the next harvest.

‘These stolen grains were either smuggled to countries like Bangladesh and Nepal or sold in the black market of other states,’ Yadav told the CBI in a sworn affidavit

But Yadav told TEHELKA that during Raja Bhaiya’s tenure, most of the procurement of farmers’ produce happened only on paper. “The modus operandi was simple. The mill owners, who were supposed to procure the produce from the farmers, would make bogus entries of procurement. Sometimes, the foodgrain stolen from PDS was shown as being procured from the farmers. And then cheques were disbursed to the mill owners and a cut was given to the minister,” Yadav told TEHELKA.

TEHELKA called Raja Bhaiya’s office and gave his staff the details of the story and also explained the importance of having the minister’s reaction. But he chose to respond through his new PRO Gyanendra Singh. “It’s true that Rajiv Yadav was the PRO of mantriji in his previous tenure. But then he was sacked. Anybody can write anything in a diary. He is acting out of vendetta,” he said. When TEHELKA asked him if anybody could fake Raja Bhaiya’s wife’s signatures or manufacture what would otherwise qualify as intricate details of the scam, he said that it’s a matter of investigation.

SP spokesman Rajendra Chowdhary adds, “CM Akhilesh Yadav has already said that all the cases against Raja Bhaiya were registered during the two previous regimes of Mayawati out of political vendetta and there is no substances in those cases.”

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How Raja Bhaiya And Gang Gamed The System

Bogus certificates, fictitious farmers, smuggling — all these tricks were used to usurp food meant for the poor

1. In Lakhimpur Kheri district, it has been found that the vehicle registration numbers of the so-called trucks used to transport foodgrain from government godowns to fair price shops were actually those of scooters and motorcycles

2. In many districts, it has been found that organised crime syndicates are controlling and running fair price shops. Bank drafts of the same series drawn from the same bank were deposited by supposedly different fair price shop owners spread across the state

3. In 2010, the then Principal Secretary (Home), UP, Fateh Bahadur filed a sworn affidavit before the Allahabad High Court saying that the employees of Railways, Union government, Food Corporation of India, Central Warehousing Corporation and nationalised banks were involved in the smuggling of PDS foodgrain to Bangladesh

4. The state also told the court that “thousands of quintals of foodgrain meant for the poor and downtrodden were either sold in open market or transported outside the state or even outside the country”

5. A four-month inquiry in Allahabad district has revealed that over 70,000 kg of rice and wheat allocated under the Antyodya Anna Yojna, which covers extremely poor families who don’t get even two square meals a day, was stolen and sold in the black market

6. An inquiry in Sitapur district has revealed that 192 rakes loaded with foodgrain were smuggled out of state in 2004-05 alone

7. A preliminary inquiry in Balia district has revealed that the entire budget of Rs 5.6 crore and the whole stock of foodgrain worth Rs 10 crore allocated under the food-for-work scheme for a three-year period was embezzled

8. An inquiry in Gonda district has found that around 15 railway rakes full of wheat was smuggled to Bangladesh in 2004-05

9. Another police report has found that foodgrain worth Rs 457 crore was stolen from Gonda district in 2001-05

10. A committee constituted by the government failed to inquire into the irregularities in foodgrain distribution in Lucknow because the government employees blatantly refused to cooperate

11. The entries of receipts of foodgrain supposedly made by labourers under the Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojna in many districts have been found to be made in the same handwriting and same ink, indicating that they are bogus

12. It has been found that subsidised foodgrain was stolen and then recycled and shown as fresh procurement from the farmers by the state government. These fictitious farmers were then paid from the exchequer under a scheme by which the government supports marginal farmers

13. In 32 districts, the total procurement of foodgrain from the farmers by the government in 2002-07 has been found to be far more than the actual produce in the same period. The government bought more than the farmers actually produced, showing that PDS foodgrain was recycled

14. In December 2010, the Allahabad High Court, while ordering a court-monitored probe, wrote in its order that the foodgrain scam is “unprecedented, unfortunate and shameful and seems to be the outcome of the highest degree of corruption that has crept into the administration”

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Yadav, who hails from Gotani village in Pratapgarh district, which is 6 km away from Raja Bhaiya’s native Benti village, told TEHELKA he had been associated with Raja Bhaiya since 1993. TEHELKA tried to corroborate his claims and found that police records show Yadav has been an active member of Raja Bhaiya’s gang since 1993, the year Bhaiya was first elected as an MLA.

Yadav has also been booked in many criminal cases lodged against Raja Bhaiya’s gang, including cases registered under the Gangster Act and attempt to murder. TEHELKA’s investigation also revealed that Yadav was officially appointed as Raja Bhaiya’s PRO in 2004 when Raja was sworn in as Cabinet minister after his release from jail and continued in the post till May 2007.

Yadav regularly drew a monthly salary from the state treasury (TEHELKA has accessed information of Yadav’s SBI savings account at the Civil Secretariat Branch in Lucknow, which has details of the salary being credited by the Secretariat Administrative Department every month). TEHELKA has also accessed a copy of the diary, a copy of which is in CBI custody.

It is not clear when and why Yadav fell out with Raja Bhaiya and why he has chosen to blow the whistle now, many years after the alleged illicit money was generated. However, Yadav told TEHELKA that he had decided to expose the minister because his conscience could no longer bear the burden of being a party to an illegal empire built on the misfortune of the poor and downtrodden.

EVERY YEAR, the Centre spends thousands of crores of rupees of public money on foodgrain subsidy. The amount of food subsidy increased to Rs 68,198 crore in 2010-11 from Rs 31,260 crore in 2007-08. In the current fiscal, the Centre has allocated Rs 75,000 crore for eliminating hunger. Uttar Pradesh, which is the most populous state and thus has the largest number of intended beneficiaries, has received around 1 lakh crore of subsidy in 2001-12. Under PDS, subsidised foodgrain is provided under schemes such as Antyodya, Mid-Day Meal, Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL) programmes.

In an act of utter brazenness, each illegal entry, the entire illegal book-keeping has allegedly been countersigned by Raja Bhaiya’s wife Bhanvi Kumari

Under the BPL scheme in UP, each family living below the poverty line gets 23 kg of wheat and 12 kg of rice every month at the rate of Rs 4.65 and Rs 6.15 per kg respectively. However, in eight divisions of UP where people consume more rice than wheat, each BPL family is allocated 15 kg of wheat and 20 kg of rice. Besides, sugar and kerosene are also provided at a fraction of the market price. At present, the Central government is providing subsidy for 74.37 lakh BPL families in the state.

Under the Antyodya scheme, the subsidy on foodgrain is even higher. The beneficiary families earmarked for this scheme get wheat at the rate of Rs 2 per kg, rice at Rs 3 per kg and sugar at Rs 13.50 per kg. Each family gets 35 kg of foodgrain and 700 grams of sugar per month. Since 2001, 32.42 lakh families have been shown on paper as the beneficiaries of this scheme in UP. Similarly, under the APL scheme, ration card-holders are given wheat and rice at Rs 6.60 and Rs 8.45 per kg respectively.

All in the family Minister Raja Bhaiya and his wife Bhanvi Kumari (extreme left)
All in the family: Minister Raja Bhaiya and his wife Bhanvi Kumari (extreme left), Photos: Pramod Adhikari

Until 2008, under the Sampoorn Gramin Rozgar Yojna (SGRY, which was later renamed MGNREGA), labourers were given Rs 33 in cash and 5 kg wheat or alternatively Rs 23 in cash and 5 kg rice. (Now, under MGNREGA, the daily wages are disbursed through cheques only).

Except for the SGRY and food-for-cash schemes, the rest of the schemes are directly controlled and monitored by the food and civil supplies ministry.

For all these schemes, it’s the Centre that provides 100 percent subsidy. Every year, the UP government sends bills and utilisation certificates claiming the allocation of foodgrain, kerosene and sugar to the poor after which the Centre gives 100 percent reimbursement to the state government. Since 2001, the UP government has been claiming full allocation to all the intended beneficiaries.

Yadav told TEHELKA that rice and wheat stolen from the PDS and other schemes was sold in the open market or smuggled to Nepal or Bangladesh. The stolen rice was sold at the rate of Rs 20-Rs 35 and wheat for Rs 20-Rs 25.

“Every month, the minister used to conduct a review meeting of district officials. Those officials who gave more money to Raja Bhaiya were considered to be better than those who gave less. Transfers and promotions were based on their capabilities to generate maximum black money,” Yadav told TEHELKA.

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Anatomy of the Scam

• Every year, the Central government spends more than Rs 70,000 crore in subsidising foodgrain under different poverty alleviation schemes

• Uttar Pradesh being the most populous state and thus home to the largest number of BPL families, gets a lion share of this subsidy

• Over the past 15 years, the state has received food subsidy worth more than Rs 1.2 lakh crore

• There is now incontrovertible evidence to prove that a majority of this foodgrain subsidy has been swindled by a well-entrenc hed nexus of politicians, officials and the mafia

• It is alleged that foodgrain and development funds worth Rs 2 lakh crore have been pilfered over the past decade

• Subsidised foodgrain meant for the poor are instead sold in the open market or smuggled to neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal

 Despite the ongoing multi-agency probe into the foodgrain scam since 2005, the stealing and black marketeering of foodgrain has continued

• Everyone from Secretariat officials, MLAs, district magistrates, sub-divisional magistrates, food corporation officials, supply officers, marketing inspectors, tehsildars, lekhpals and pradhans have benefited from the loot

• Raja Bhaiya, a gangster with about four-dozen criminal cases pending against him, was the food and civil supplies minister in 2004-07. He is now once again holding the same portfolios in the newly-elected SP government

• The new evidence suggests that Raja Bhaiya was at the top of this gravy train and had personally made more than Rs 100 crore from this great loot

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Yadav has named four such officers in his affidavit who were given promotions despite serious allegations of corruption and recommendations of departmental action against them. “Regional Marketing Officer VK Singh, District Supply Officer (DSO) Rampalat Pandey, DSO Chattar Singh and Marketing Inspector VV Singh were promoted despite pending departmental inquiries,” Yadav has claimed in his affidavit. On the other hand, honest officers were sidelined by Raja Bhaiya, he said.

SEVERAL PUBLIC interest litigations (PILs) filed before the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court since 2004 have alleged that a conservative estimate of the scam runs into over Rs 2 lakh crore. The Mayawati regime had partially accepted this charge before the HC and had also agreed to a CBI probe towards the end of 2007.

The scam was in full swing between 2002 and ’07, stretching over both the Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati regimes. (The Bahujan Samaj Party led a coalition government between May 2002 and August 2003, followed by Mulayam’s regime between August 2003 and May 2007. In May 2007, a landslide victory for the BSP perched Mayawati back in the chief minister’s chair.)

“While the BSP and SP were the architects of the scam, it’s the Congress that is directly responsible for allocation of subsidies and management of Food Corporation of India warehouses and the distribution of foodgrain to state corporations. Shockingly, since 2004, the Centre has not even once filed an affidavit clearing its stance on the scam,” says Vishwanath Chaturvedi, the Lucknow-based social activist who filed the PIL in the matter.

The scam had first come to light in 2004 when an officer had dared to do his job. In November 2004, in an inquiry conducted by the then Special Secretary (Food and Civil Supplies) HS Pandey, it was found that there were no records with the Gonda district administration to show where foodgrain worth Rs 457 crore, allocated under schemes such as the SGRY and BPL between 2001 and 2004, had been utilised. While on paper, the officials in the district’s 14 blocks had regularly offloaded foodgrain, but there were no records to establish where the stocks went after reaching the blocks.

Shockingly, district officials such as the project development officer and the chief development officer had issued utilisation certificates of this missing foodgrain, i.e. they had given bogus certificates claiming that the foodgrain had been distributed to the intended beneficiaries.

These certificates were verified by their seniors, including the commissioner, assistant commissioners and special secretaries in the Food and Civil Supplies department, which were then in turn sent to the Centre. This was the extent of the rot in the system.

‘There was not much money to be made from the weights and measures department, so it was told to give us a fixed Rs 4 lakh every month,’ says Yadav

TEHELKA called Raja Bhaiya’s office and gave his staff the details of the story and also explained the importance of having the minister’s reaction. But he chose to respond through his new PRO Gyanendra Singh. “It’s true that Rajiv Yadav was the PRO of mantriji in his previous tenure. But then he was sacked. Anybody can write anything in a diary. He is acting out of vendetta,” he said. When TEHELKA asked him if anybody could fake Raja Bhaiya’s wife’s signatures or manufacture what would otherwise qualify as intricate details of the scam, he said that it’s a matter of investigation.

Pandey’s report had led to a political storm. Under fire from all sides, the then chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered a CBI probe. But within a few weeks, he did a volte-face and withdrew the order. When Chaturvedi took the matter to the Allahabad High Court demanding a CBI probe, the Mulayam government failed to explain in the court why it had ordered a CBI probe and then withdrawn it. Instead, the government constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the scam.

An officer, who was once part of the SIT, told TEHELKA that the SIT had become a dumping ground for punishment postings. “The team neither had any resources nor the capability to go to the roots of this scam that was continuing since 2001 and had spread across the length and breadth of UP,” the officer said. From time to time, the courts have expressed their unhappiness at the tardy progress of the SIT probe.

In December 2007, the Allahabad High Court ordered the CBI to probe the foodgrain scam in all the districts. But shockingly, the agency refused to take it up by citing lack of manpower and resources to investigate a scam of this magnitude. The agency rather chose to proceed with the investigation only in three districts: Balia, Lakhimpur Kheri and  Sitapur.

Numerical proof The diary that was maintained by Rajiv Yadav, the former close aide of Raja Bhaiya
Numerical proof: The diary that was maintained by Rajiv Yadav, the former close aide of Raja Bhaiya

MEANWHILE, THE evidence of massive corruption in the PDS and a deep-rooted nexus between politicians, bureaucracy and mafia kept emerging.

In December 2010, a two-judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court, taking cognisance of the unprecedented scale of corruption in the PDS and other foodgrain distribution schemes, ordered a courtmonitored CBI probe. The court also instructed the CBI to widen its probe ambit to three other districts —Varanasi, Gonda and Lucknow. It also ordered that those cases, in which the government-constituted SIT had found evidence of cross-border and inter-state smuggling of foodgrain, be transferred to the CBI.

The court noted that the state government was creating bottlenecks in the probe by not giving mandatory sanctions required under law to investigate and prosecute state government employees.

To expedite the probe, the court, in a landmark step, ruled that “it shall not be necessary for the CBI or the state agencies to obtain sanction under the statutory provisions with regard to present controversy where from initial stage, prima facie intentionally, deliberately and in a planned manner the foodgrain was lifted from godown for sale in either open market or to smuggle outside the state”.

Uttar Pradesh, which is the most populous state and thus has the largest number of intended beneficiaries, has received around Rs 1 lakh crore of subsidy in 2001-12

“Investigation into every accusation made against each and every person on a reasonable basis, irrespective of the position and status of such person, shall be conducted and completed expeditiously. It is imperative to retain public confidence in the impartial working of the state agencies,” said the court order.

Complying with the order, the agency included three more districts — Gonda, Lucknow and Varanasi — in its ambit. But the agency showed remarkable tardiness and lack of will in getting to the root of the conspiracy.

Till date, the CBI has filed merely two chargesheets and has arraigned lowly officers (with the exception of the arrest of a former MLA named OP Gupta) pertaining to two instances of pilferage of foodgrain.

The HC noted that the state government was creating bottlenecks by not giving mandatory sanctions to investigate and prosecute state government employees

But the CBI is not the only party guilty of soft-pedalling the investigation. The then Mayawati government challenged the December 2010 Allahabad High Court order before the Supreme Court on many grounds; mainly objecting to the court-monitored probe and the doing away of the need for taking prior government sanction for investigation and prosecution of government servants. Symbolic of our dilatory judicial proceedings, the Supreme Court in April 2011 stayed most of the operative findings of the HC order. Since then, the case has remained stayed.

Recently, petitioner Chaturvedi filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court, alleging that the CBI is dragging its feet because of political pressure and demanded a court-monitored CBI probe. Yadav’s affidavit is part of Chaturvedi’s application. The matter is scheduled to come up for hearing sometime this week. In the meantime, the CBI has carried out two significant raids against people in power.

Partners-in-crime (From left) Akshay Pratap Singh, Jayesh Prasad and Yashwant Singh
Partners-in-crime: (From left) Akshay Pratap Singh, Jayesh Prasad and Yashwant Singh

Last December, the agency raided the residence and office of senior SP leader Vinod Kumar Singh alias Pandit Singh, who is now the revenue minister, with regard to pilferage of foodgrain allocated under SGRY. Then in February, the CBI carried out search operations against Daljeet Singh, who is an executive member of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee.

Perhaps, the singular reason for the failure of justice in the foodgrain scam has been the involvement of politicians across the spectrum. No government, both at the state and the Centre, wants to pursue the probe. But if the dysfunctional and corrupt political system starts killing the poorest of the poor, then it’s no more a routine story of malfeasance. It warrants a groundswell of public outrage and an urgent corrective action. It demands exemplary punishment to the guilty and a collective vow to not let this happen again.

So far, the CBI has filed just two chargesheets and has arraigned lowly officers, except for the arrest of a former MLA, in two instances of foodgrain pilferage

LAST MONTH, when Akhilesh Yadav inducted Raja Bhaiya in his Cabinet, the new chief minister dismissed the public criticism of having criminals in the government by saying that criminal cases against his Cabinet colleagues were registered by the Mayawati regime and were motivated by political vendetta. But this exposé has not come from Opposition camps. It is based on the seemingly incontrovertible evidence provided by an insider who has taken the matter right up to the apex court.

It would be a shame if the new chief minister, who has been promising to bring about a paradigm shift to governance in Uttar Pradesh, fails to act on this exposé and resorts to usual political skullduggery to defend the indefensible.

With inputs from Virendra Nath Bhatt

Ashish Khetan is Editor, Investigations with Tehelka.
[email protected]

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