The adage — when it rains, it pours — would be weighing heavily on Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s mind now.
As if the ongoing probes by central agencies into the various scams — chit fund, cattle smuggling, illegal coal mining, cash-for jobs in schools and — that have netted many Trinamool functionaries, including some senior ones, are not enough, a fresh probe by the CBI ordered by the Calcutta High Court into yet another scam threatens to bring more misery to Mamata Banerjee.
The Calcutta High Court asked the CBI to start a probe into the alleged illegal appointments in several Trinamool-run municipalities in the state in an order issued Friday (21 April).
Justice Abhijit Bandopadhyay, who had earlier ordered the CBI to probe the school recruitment scam, asked the CBI to lodge an FIR and start probing the cash-for-jobs scam in civic bodies.
The High Court also asked the state police chief and the chief secretary to cooperate with CI sleuths who will be investigating the illegal appointments.
As was reported in Swarajya a month ago (read ), the ED chanced upon this scam involving illegal appointments in civic bodies while searching the residence and office of an accused in the school recruitment scam on 19 and 20 March.
The ED had told a special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) Court on 20 March, that the search of the residence and office of real estate developer Ayan Sil, who is reportedly close to top Trinamool leaders, unearthed documents.
The documents revealed grave irregularities in appointments to various posts in at least seven municipalities of North 24 Parganas in 2014 and 2015.
Sil’s company — Abs Infozon Pvt Ltd — was awarded a contract for printing, barcoding and evaluating optional mark recognition (OMR) sheets for written tests held for aspirants to various posts of seven civic bodies.
Sil’s company was also awarded exactly the same contract by the school education department as well.
However, the company, in collusion with top officers of the department and various Trinamool leaders, tampered with the OMR sheets and rigged the whole system to favour undeserving candidates who had paid large sums of money for jobs in schools.
Sil’s company was found to have committed the same irregularities with hundreds of recruitments to the Dum Dum, North Dum Dum, South Dum Dum, Panihati, Kamarhati, Baranagar and Halisahar as well.
Here too, undeserving candidates who are suspected of having paid large sums of money to Sil and others, including Trinamool leaders, were appointed to various posts starting from typists and peons to mazdoors.
The ED’s lawyer had told the special PMLA court: “We have just entered the gold mine. We do not know how much gold is there. We (the ED) are dumbfounded. We began the probe into school appointments. Now we find that such irregularities (similar to the cash-for-jobs scam in the school education department) happened in municipalities also”.
The ED had petitioned the Calcutta High Court for a separate probe into the illegal appointments in municipalities. The Court accepted the ED’s plea Friday (22 April) and ordered the CBI to probe the alleged scam.
ED officer Mithilesh Kumar Mishra, in his affidavit, has submitted that “several incriminating documents, including digital evidence” were seized during searches at Sil’s home and office.
On examining those documents and evidence, the ED realised that the scam was not limited only to recruitments in primary schools but included appointments to various municipalities. Mishra pleaded in the ED’s petition that a separate FIR was required for another probe into the case.
Why The Fresh Probe Spells Bad News For Mamata Banerjee:
It can be said with a fair degree of certainty that the CBI probe into this recruitment scam in Trinamool-run municipalities will again net several Trinamool leaders and even persons close to senior Trinamool leaders.
Ayan Sil and his employees would definitely have colluded with or acted at the behest of Trinamool leaders running the municipalities while committing those irregularities in recruitment to posts in the civic bodies.
It can be very safely assumed that a lot of money would have changed hands with the undeserving candidates paying huge bribes for their appointment to various posts in those municipalities.
And a major portion of those bribes would have been pocketed by the Trinamool leaders. It can also be safely assumed that the mid-ranking Trinamool leaders in the civic bodies would have shared their ill-gotten monies with party seniors, as is the norm.
A thorough investigation, which the CBI is expected to carry out, will reveal the extent of the scam and how much money changed hands. Many mid-ranking and senior Trinamool leaders will also be named as accused.
That will cause more embarrassment for the party and its top leadership. The many scams that have shamed Bengal under Mamata Banerjee’s watch has already sullied the Trinamool chief’s carefully crafted sototar prateek (epitome of honesty) image.
No one in Bengal believes that Mamata Banerjee was unaware of the scams that happened. It is widely said in Bengal that not a leaf can move without her knowledge; she keeps a close watch on all that happens in the state.
Hence, it is inconceivable that the chief minister, given her penchant for keeping close tabs on all her party colleagues and functionaries, would have been oblivious of the largescale corruption that happened.
She would not have been uninformed of the mind-boggling wealth and assets illegally accumulated by even district Trinamool leaders.
That is why she is battling to distance herself from all the scams and the accused Trinamool leaders. But she has not met with much success, more so since her close family members are also accused of amassing huge wealth.
Another scam, with more Trinamool leaders and functionaries falling into the CBI dragnet, will spell grave disaster for Mamata Banerjee.
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