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Neera Yadav's largesse benefited politicians of all hues

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow

Motilal Vora and Romesh Bhandari may lead diametrically opposite lifestyles, but the two governors (past and present) of Uttar Pradesh have one thing in common. Both appear to be equally averse to the idea of curbing rampant corruption at the highest levels of the state bureaucracy. And their apparent reluctance to give the statutory nod to the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe a multi-billion rupee land scam involving a senior lady IAS officer, proves the point.

The country's premier investigation agency was keen on probing serious charges in the allotment of prized land at NOIDA by civil servant Neera Yadav during her tenure as chairman of the flourishing township on the outskirts of Delhi.

The CBI first aired its misgivings about the allotments to the UP government about a year ago, but then governor Motilal Vora saved Yadav by telling the agency that he would refer the matter to the state vigilance department. The then chief secretary, Mata Prasad, kept the file in limbo.

And there it rested until last month when CBI Director Joginder Singh wrote an eight-page letter to Governor Bhandari, renewing the agency's request for permission to proceed against the officer. Until Wednesday afternoon when he announced a judicial inquiry into the case, Bhandari too preferred to keep the file on the backburner.

Neera Yadav has been a "rather controversial" figure throughout her 25-year career in the civil service. People who know her say she got away with whatever she did, because of her influence with UP's politicians, no matter what their inclination.

If she was close to then Congress chief minister Veer Bahadur Singh and former minister Balram Yadav, she struck a chord with Mulayam Singh Yadav as soon as the Samajwadi Party leader rode to power. She switched sides to Mayawati when the Bahujan Samaj Party general secretary became chief minister.

That altered loyalty gave her additional charge of Greater NOIDA, the swiftly growing industrial township in the neighbourhood of the federal capital.

The CBI director's letter reveals how the officer bypassed all norms when it came to obliging those who mattered with allotment of lucrative plots in NOIDA.

The son of then chief secretary Mata Prasad, who sat on the file on which Vora had ordered a vigilance probe, received a residential plot in a prized NOIDA sector. Two of Mayawati's brothers were awarded residential plots in the township.

According to the CBI, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Kishinchand Advani was a recipient of her alleged largesse. One of Advani's kin secured a plot in NOIDA as did Samajwadi Party leader Balram Yadav, a former minister in the Mulayam Singh Yadav cabinet and currently accused of involvement in the multi-million rupee ayurved scam.

Senior civil servants -- former cabinet secretary Surendra K Singh and present Cabinet secretary T S R Subramaniam among others -- also received plots, according to the CBI.

Many VIPS bought petty kiosks or tiny shops -- juice stalls, paan-beedishops -- to fulfill the eligibility criterion for NOIDA plots. Asks a young IAS officer, "Can you imagine a top bureaucrat's wife being certified as running a juice stall or chairman of the state electricity board running a tailor's shop?"

Neera Yadav obtained four NOIDA plots for two daughters, her husband and herself. On one plot measuring some 500 square metres in NOIDA's most expensive sector, a palatial bungalow is currently under construction. The CBI, it is learnt, estimates its cost at about Rs 7 million.

It is also alleged that the IAS officer owns property in Bulandshahar, Ghaziabad and Lucknow, besides Bangalore and Bombay.

Significantly, the CBI director's letter claims Yadav -- whose husband Mahendra Singh Yadav quit the IPS to become a BJP MLA -- owns real estate in London and Glasgow as well.

Soon after The Pioneer broke the story, Neera Yadav accused some of her colleagues of having received similar allotments from her predecessors at NOIDA.

She also addressed a press conference where she declared that 'I am being framed simply because I happen to be a backward.'

This declaration took a bizarre turn when one correspondent reminded her that before she married Yadav she belonged to a Brahmin family. Yadav then retorted, 'in a Hindu society a woman automatically acquires the caste of the family she is wedded to.'

When she accused some IAS officers in the state, known for their integrity, of being corrupt, the leader of the state IAS officers association remarked, "Throwing mud at others does not give her a clean chit; the whole world is aware of her reputation."

He also drew this correspondent's attention to Neera Yadav's reaction to the association's bid to identify the three most corrupt IAS officers in the state through a secret ballot. She was among the three officers who resigned in a huff from the association to protest against what she termed 'the illegal and unconstitutional' manner in which the 'most corrupt' had been identified.

The result of that poll remains sealed in a bank locker in Lucknow and will be opened on February 15, the opening day of the annual IAS Week in the state.


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