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Anatomy of a scam

The Rs 9.5 billion fodder scam in Bihar came to light on January 27, 1996 at Chibasa in South Bihar when then deputy commissioner of the district Amit Khare ordered his officials to raid the office of the animal husbandry department.

The raid unearthed a huge cache of documents showing illegal withdrawals, and revealing an illicit nexus between officials and suppliers.

Just prior to this, state finance secretary V S Dubey, following an office memo dated January 20, 1996 from the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of Bihar expressing concern about withdrawls from various treasuries, ordered district magistrates and deputy commissioners of all districts to go into cases of excessive withdrawals.

Following the unearthing of the scam, the state government instituted two seperate one man commissions of inquiry.The first was headed by state development commissioner Phoolchand Singh, and constituted on January 30, 1966. However, this one was aborted when Singh's name began to figure in the chargesheet.

The second commission was headed by Justice Sarwar Ali, and instituted on March 10, 1966. It is, however, yet to file its final report.

Meanwhile, CBI Joint Director (East) U N Biswas took over the reins of the probe and, when last heard from on May 2, 1997, admitted in court that the conspiracy has been chronicled in a series of 48 cases all of which have been filed in the Patna high court.

Interestingly, the CBI enquiry followed a public interest litigation filed on March 11, 1966, by state BJP state president and leader of the opposition in the state assembly Sushil Kumar Modi. The high court ordered a CBI probe and when the move was resisted by the state government, the Supreme Court upheld the high court ruling.

Interestingly, the question of illicit withdrawals had however been noticed as early as February 1990, when the principal accountant general to the finance commissioner commented on it in an office memo.

The CAG then mentioned this as a cause for concern in his note to the Bihar chief secretary in July 1992. Subsequently, the deputy CAG again made mention of his concern in a note to the state chief secretary in May 1993 and, in February 1994, the CAG once again commented adversely about the delay in instituting enquiries - this time addressing his complaint directly to chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav.

None of these official notes however evoked any official response. It was left to the high court, following Modi's petition, to initiate the action that, on Tuesday June 17, 1997, culminated in Bihar governor A R Kidwai sanctioning the prosecution of Laloo Prasad Yadav and others.


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