To Fight Corruption In Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath Has To Fight Fire, Literally

by Atul Chandra - Nov 2, 2017 08:54 AM +05:30 IST
To Fight Corruption In Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath Has To Fight Fire, LiterallyYogi Adityanath (SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Corrupt officials in Uttar Pradesh have sought to save themselves through various means. Among the most common ways is fire.

Fire is the protector of corrupt officials in Uttar Pradesh. Whenever faced with an inquiry, the tainted babus invoke the deva of fire, and files containing proof of their misdeeds are gutted in a jiffy. With the evidence gone, the malpractices are restarted with renewed zeal.

In 2015, crucial files were destroyed in three fires, big and small, in the state’s health directorate. The files, it is believed, were about the multi-crore National Rural Health Mission scam during Mayawati government’s term. An inquiry revealed that the fire was deliberate, but no one was apparently found guilty. These investigations reveal nothing as the corrupt are adept at covering their tracks, sometimes by making absurd excuses.

So, when files allegedly relating to financial aid and grants to schools were found torn into pieces in the high-security state secretariat’s secondary education department, the security staff put the blame on two stray dogs who managed to stroll into the room containing the files and got locked up.

An investigation was ordered and, as usual, did not reveal anything.

After the Yogi Adityanath government declared the development authorities open for financial scrutiny by the comptroller and auditor-general (CAG) after much resistance, it was thought that there will not only be a check on wheelers and dealers but also bring transparency to the functioning of the development authorities.

But the bureaucracy at these development authorities, which are believed to be the hub of graft, has other ideas. It has fallen back on tried-and-tested unethical methods to remain out of reach of auditors.

A recent and daring example of such practice was witnessed in the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) where babus big and small, who are alleged to have made a killing through land acquisition and sale of property illegally, managed to put to flame scores of files containing proof of their misdeeds.

After a spate of allegations of financial impropriety by a former vice-chairman, a well-connected lady officer in the property section and many others, an inquiry was ordered. The lady officer, who is related to former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, and two others were, in fact, chargesheeted by the LDA vice-chairman. Another clerk was also suspended, though in a separate case.

Amidst these goings-on, the CAG department, which has its unit in the LDA office, had been asking for certain files for audit for the last three years. After some tough talk by the chief minister, the audit team again asked for files kept in the record room. When the babus realised that they now had no option but to submit those files for audit, they allegedly got scores of files gutted in a blaze on the night of Friday, 14 October, fearing that the findings could singe them.

Although the fire was said to have been caused by short-circuiting, many suspect that the private agency engaged by the LDA for scanning and digitising the files played dirty in connivance with the corrupt, blamed officials of the LDA. Although it was claimed that only 153 files were destroyed while the remaining had been scanned.

During the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had alleged large-scale corruption in the Ghaziabad Development Authority. Soon after taking over as the chief minister, Adityanath ordered a CAG audit of the body.

Like Ghaziabad, Greater Noida and Noida also have always been mired in graft charges. The two authorities have been looked at as a mint for politicians belonging to the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, besides bureaucrats. In July, the government also brought Greater Noida, Noida and Yamuna Expressway Authority under the purview of a CAG audit.

For the audit to give the desired results, a hawk’s eye will have to be kept on saboteurs interested in short-circuiting the probe.

Atul Chandra is former Resident Editor, The Times of India, Lucknow. He has written extensively on politics in Uttar Pradesh.

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