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'Minister has converted ED into an extended arm of the BJP'

January 11, 2024 09:44 IST
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'Now the political boss decides, and the ED acts.'

IMAGE: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2024, January 10, 2024. Photograph: ANI

Few in the country will take on one of the most powerful ministers in the Narendra Damodardas Modi Cabinet, Nirmala Sitharaman, India's finance minister.

B Balamurugan, who works as the Deputy Commissioner of Goods and Service Tax in Chennai, did.

Balamurugan wrote to the President of India and asked her to dismiss the finance minister for 'converting the ED into a BJP policy enforcement directorate'.

Strong accusation indeed from a person who works in the department that is under Sitharaman's ministry.

This is not the first time he has taken on the powerful.

In 2017, he complained against Sitharaman when fishermen from Tamil Nadu were shot by the Coast Guard near Rameswaram. She was the defence minister then.

In 2009, he had fasted for Sri Lankan Tamils, and was suspended for 1 year and 3 months.

"I don't think I did anything wrong. I think morally, I did the right thing," Balamurugan tells's Shobha Warrier about his letter to President Droupadi Murmu.

At a time when whoever criticises the government gets a summons from the ED, you have very courageously sent a letter to the President seeking the finance minister's dismissal. Were you not scared of taking on the mighty?

I believe truth is mightier than everything else.

I am a very small person and I have no delusions about that. I also know that those who are on the other side are very powerful people.

But when truth is on my side, I get what we call asura balam.

Many people were shocked to hear the news about the ED sending summons to two poor Dalit farmers in Tamil Nadu after they had accused a local BJP leader of illegally grabbing their land.
You mentioned this incident as the reason for your letter to the President.... Were you outraged?

The advocate G Praveena, who was representing the farmers, is my wife. When the farmers, Kanniyan (72) and Krishnan (67) got the summons from ED in July 2023, my wife had filed a complaint with the police.

In December, she wrote about this on a Tamil news Web site, and it became viral.

Till then nobody knew about it?

No, everybody knew about it, but nobody came forward to publish the story.

In fact, she had gone to the village when she came to know about the summons. She then found out that they were just poor farmers with just Rs 450 in their account, and they depend on the old age pension of Rs 1,000.

She then wanted everybody to know about the ED's involvement in a land dispute case where the farmers had accused the local BJP leader of trying to grab their land.

She approached the Madras Press Club along with the farmers. but she was not given permission to hold a press conference. It was then that she wrote about this on the Tamil news Web site.

Photograph: ANI

Every government uses agencies like the CBI or ED against Opposition leaders. Do you feel the ED has become a tool in the hands of the ruling party?

I am not bothered about what they do to other politicians. They know how to manage, they also know how to come out of it.

But why are you harassing poor farmers who have just 6 acres of agricultural land and only Rs. 450 in their accounts?

The BJP leader is only a front in this case of land grabbing. I am sure he will transfer the land to those who want the entire area for some other purpose.

Otherwise, why is the ED involved in a land dispute case to support a local party leader?

I feel there is a larger plan to acquire hundreds of acres of land in that area which may ultimately go to some powerful business house or an MNC. We do not know that right now. That's why in my second letter, I have asked for a CBI enquiry into the issue.

IMAGE: B Balamurugan. Photograph: Kind courtesy B Balamurugan

You have been working in this department for 30 years. How has your experience been till now under various governments? Do you get pressurised by politicians?

I don't look at this from the point of view of various governments. We have the freedom to choose what we want to be. If you want to be honest, you can be.

People who want to get things done, know who to approach. So far, I had the freedom to take decisions. If my decision is right, I stand by it, and I was never questioned by the higher officials.

I would say the department gives the freedom to those who want to work honestly.

We don't get any pressure from local politicians because they go to Delhi with their issues. So, we get questions only from there.

Unlike the state politicians who involve themselves directly with state government offices, they don't come to our office. They go to Delhi with their problems.

Do you think you will be punished for writing a letter to the President seeking the dismissal of a powerful minister?

I don't think I did anything wrong. I think morally, I did the right thing.

Somebody has to do this. So, I am doing it.

I will take this issue to the people, and I am sure these farmers will get justice.

The minister has converted the ED into an extended arm of the BJP. Now the political boss decides, and the ED acts.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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