Taking serious note of the rampant corruption in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Uttar Pradesh, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court on Friday ordered a Central Bureau of Investogation probe into the alleged large scale financial bungling brought to its notice through a public interest litigation, moved by local journalist Sachchidanand Gupta .
The PIL sought to draw the court’s attention to the blatant violation of rules and financial irregularities in the implementation of the ambitious program in seven specific districts between 2007 and 2010, when the Bahujan Samaj Party ruled the country’s most populous state under Mayawati.
Significantly, one of the then district magistrates, pointedly accused of pilfering crores, is holding a key position in the present chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s personal secretariat. Widely known for his blatant indulgence in corrupt activities even now, the bureaucrat is among the young CM’s blue-eyed boys.
The probe is seen to be causing much embarrassment to Akhilesh Yadav, who had earlier moved heaven and earth to circumvent a move by Union minister Jairam Ramesh to go for a CBI inquiry into the alleged bungling.
Akhilesh chose to go for a state-level inquiry by UP’s own Economic Offences Wing instead of involving CBI. However, with the high court’s clear-cut direction, the state government is left with no choice.
While directing the CBI to probe the alleged bungling in the specified seven districts, the division bench comprising Justice D P Singh and Justice A P Singh has also ordered a preliminary inquiry into suspected irregularities in the state’s remaining districts.
“A writ in the nature of mandamus is issued directing the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate the abuse and misappropriation of fund as well as the abuse of power under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Scheme with regard to seven districts of State of UP, namely Balrampur, Gonda, Mahoba, Sonbhadra, Sant Kabir Nagar, Mirzapur and Kushinagar in the years 2007 to 2010 with appropriate action and prosecution in accordance with law”, the bench ruled.
It went on to add, “A further writ in the nature of mandamus is issued directing the Central Bureau of Investigation to hold a preliminary enquiry under Chapter IX of CBI Manual with regard to other districts of the State of U.P for the aforesaid three years relating to abuse, misuse or misappropriation of fund provided by the Government of India under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Scheme with follow-up regular enquiry, if required.”
Taking serious note of the visible irregularities, the court went on to point out, “The material on record prima facie reveals startling facts with regard to misappropriation of fund allocated under MGNREGA right from lowest echelon of the elected representative, i.e. Pradhan, Gram Sabha members to the higher bureaucracy in a well netted collusive manner”.
In a rare gesture, the bench displayed its deep concern for the rampant corruption at various levels of governance in the UP government by quoting from Alexander Pope’s moral essay “Demons of corruption are hunting the public exchequer”, observed the bench, while adding:
“At length corruption, like a general flood,
(So long by watchful ministers withstood)
Shall deluge all; and avarice creeping on,
Spread low like a low-born mist, and blot the sun;
Statesman and patriot ply alike the stocks;
Peeress and butler share alike the box,
And judges job, and bishops bite the town,
And mighty dukes pack cards for half a crown,
See Britain sunk in lucre's sordid charms.”
The judges also raised a pertinent question, “Whether India will sink in lucre's sordid charms?”
Image: Rural labourers work on a dried lake under the MNREGA