Once, they used to call the shots, considering themselves to be above the law, leading luxurious lifestyles. Now, dingy jail barracks are their destiny. This is what happens when the law takes its course.
Two former chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh are in jail because of corruption cases against them, quite a humbling experience for those who once exuded the arrogance of power. When the trial in the Noida plot allotment scam reached its logical conclusion, two top IAS officers found themselves convicted. The Allahabad High Court upheld their convictions. Now they have gone to the Supreme Court in appeal.
Meanwhile, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam trial has been dragging on for many years. Here too, senior bureaucrats are facing accusation of bribery and corruption.
Corruption in the bureaucracy of the largest north Indian state came into prominence in 1996, when some young and honest officers came together under the banner of the UP IAS Association. As part of a self-cleansing exercise, they held a vote to identify the three most corrupt bureaucrats among themselves. The spark of the idea came from Income Tax raids on houses of some IAS officers. Twenty years later, the activism of conscientious members of the cadre is a thing of the past. Most of them have become mute spectators as high-level political and administrative corruption rules.
The UP IAS Association, through secret ballot, identified Akhand Pratap Singh, Neera Yadav and
Brijendra Yadav as the most corrupt officers of the state cadre and dubbed them the black sheep among the IAS community. This process evoked nationwide response; the identified officers came on the radar of anti-corruption agencies and tax authorities. While corruption cases have been booked against the first two, the third accused died before any action could be initiated against him. Though Income Tax raids took place at his premises too, the evidence collected was subsequently destroyed in a mysterious fire in the IT Departmentâs Bareilly office, where all investigation records were kept.
The idea behind identifying corrupt officers by upright officers was to draw public attention to growing corruption at the highest levels of administration. Instead of taxpayersâ money being used honestly for development, infrastructure and welfare projects, it is being misused with the active connivance of political masters for personal gain, betraying the common manâs trust.
Uttar Pradesh saw unique examples of executive failure when the Supreme Court of India came forward and removed its two chief secretaries â Akhand Pratap Singh, a 1967 batch IAS officer and Neera Yadav, a 1971 batch IAS officer â from the most sensitive post because they were facing corruption charges. It was clear their political masters were interested in keeping them in such a coveted post.
The scale of corruption is mind-boggling. Former UP Chief Secretary Akhand Pratap Singh was arrested in 2007 by the CBI for possessing assets over 200 crore, clearly disproportionate to his known sources of income. It was found that he had no less than 84 prime properties in several cities. CBI had registered a disproportionate assets (DA) case against him in 2005. The agency alleged that Singh indulged in large-scale forgery of documents and converted his gains into immoveable assets in the names of his family members, relatives, friends and also a few private limited companies. The CBI investigations unearthed 84 properties in prime locations in Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Lucknow, Bahraich and Nainital.
The FIR lodged by the agency had alleged Singh and his family owned a house worth 30 lakh and a double-storey building in Lucknow, a flat in Delhiâs Vasant Vihar, agricultural land in UPâs Bahraich, and farmhouses in Lucknow and Bhimtal, Uttarakhand. After the raids on different premises owned by the powerful officer, they found over 100 bank accounts with large deposits and huge investments in shares, debentures and luxurious vehicles. âInvestigation has also revealed large-scale forgeries perpetrated by him in the process of acquisition of assets and their laundering into seemingly legitimate assets.â Legal proceedings were initiated against him in different courts but the final outcome is still awaited.
Another Uttar Pradesh chief secretary, Neera Yadav, was also voted as the second most corrupt
bureaucrat by her fraternity. She was convicted in two separate corruption cases relating to the Noida land scam, wherein she was awarded four- and three-year jail terms as punishment. In the first case, she was convicted in December 2010 for illegally allotting land to a company. Her second conviction was in a case pertaining to making illegal allotments of lands to her kith and kin, close relatives, bureaucrats and politicians.