Controversial IAS officer and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Neera Yadav , who was on Tuesday, convicted by a special Central Bureau of Investigation court and arrested in Ghaziabad on account of her involvement in the NOIDA land scam had always received the patronage of successive chief ministers of India's most populous state.
Apart from misusing her authority by making out-of-turn allotments to her favoured lot for obvious considerations , Neera Yadav was was also accused of fraudulently allotting prime plots to industrialists as well as to her own daughters and kin in blatant violation of all rules during her stint as chairperson cum CEO of New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA).
While her corrupt ways were notoriously known to all and sundry and she was voted as one of the "three most corrupt IAS officers" of the state by none other than her own UP IAS Association in 1997, ironically, she continued to enjoy positions of prominence under different governments.
It was not just Mulayam Singh Yadav, who doled out key positions to her. Even chief ministers of all other hues always seemed to be ready to offer her the moon.
Known for her street-smart skills, she managed to gain undue favours even from politically diverse chief ministers like Bhartiya Janata Party's Rajnath Singh or Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati.
In the eighties, when the Congress was in power, Yadavmanaged to grab key positions including that of the state's appointment secretary, who handles the postings and transfers of IAS and state civil service officers.
Disgusted by her corrupt ways , a group of young IAS officers formed an action group and went in a delegation to the then chief minister Veer Bahadur Singh complaining against victimization of honest bureaucrats. "In fact she created history of sorts by bringing the august office of appointments secretary into disrepute as never before had IAS officers accused an appointments secretary of demanding bribes", remarked an IAS officer , who was then targeted by her.
Yet she continued to get one key position after another with control over ministries like food, agriculture, industries and education. With her police officer husband Mahendra Singh Yadav turning to politics, where he rose to become a BJP minister, Neera Yadav had the best of both worlds. No sooner was the BJP out of power, she found it convenient to fall back upon Mulayam, who eventually made her chief secretary in May 2005.
Reacting sharply to the move, retired IAS officer Dharam Singh Rawat, who was widely known for his anti-corruption crusade, then sat on a dharna under the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Lucknow ,seeking to know, "how was such an IAS officer was made chief secretary when her track record was full of taint and blemish and she even stood charge-sheeted by the CBI for gross irregularities in the NOIDA land allotments."
Rawat wondered why the realisation had not dawned on then UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had to earlier face much embarrassment for appointing another controversial officer Akhand Pratap Singh as chief secretary in 2003. Singh , who had topped the list of the 'three most corrupt' IAS officers, was compelled to step down after his appointment was challenged through a PIL , filed by a journalist before the country's apex court.
Although the court's scathing observations did put Mulayam on guard for sometime, barely a year later, he brought Neera Yadav as chief secretary, overlooking the fact that she was a close second to Akhand Pratap Singh in the secret ballot carried out by the UP IAS Association to elect the 'three most corrupt officers.'
However, Yadav was removed from the chief secretary's position by an order of the Supreme Court in another PIL moved by the same journalist. The apex court directed the state government to remove Neera Yadav from the top job "within seven days."
"It was the first time in the history of the country that the apex court ordered removal of a state chief secretary on charges of corruption", remarked senior IAS officer V S Pandey, who had earlier spearheaded the campaign to identify the "three most corrupt IAS officers" in UP.
It was Pandey, who also took the lead to oppose Neera Yadav's nomination as president of the UP IAS Association by virtue of her being the senior most IAS officer , shortly after she was cut to size by the Supreme Court.
What was strange that even in the Mayawati regime, Neera Yadav managed to have her way. After she was charge-sheeted by CBI, she moved a petition before the Allahabad High Court that directed the state government to get a departmental probe carried out in the NOIDA case. Neera ensured that the probe was entrusted to someone who would sign on the dotted line.
And sure enough former state board of revenue chairman Aparmita Prasad Singh proved to be truly obliging. Singh gave her a clean-chit in the very case that the special CBI court, on Tuesday, found enough valid ground to sentence her to four years imprisonment.
Interestingly, the inquiry officer who exonerated Neera Yadav has the dubious distinction of giving clean chits to two other highly tainted bureaucrats in similar cases of corruption in the past.
How and why Mayawati chose to ignore Yadav's close proximity to her nemesis Mulayam Singh Yadav also remains a mystery. While Mayawati has known to be targeting anyone and everyone connected with Mulayam, she seems to have made a conscious exception in Yadav's case.