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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

fodder scam .... and fall from disgrace of politicians - not by conviction but by loss of power

We have heard of many scams, speak, debate on them, till next one gets unearthed and slowly forget them………. How many of us still remember Bofors, and Fairfax…. !!  ~ one has lost track and wonders how many cases have been taken to logical end and how many got convicted ?

Anniyan [literally Stranger] had a great theme – conceptually it was the guilty being punished… through the character of an innocent and honest lawyer.  One powerful dialogue penned by the Great Sujatha became an instant hit – but remembered more of a comedy… it was - “Anju paisa thiruduna thappaa? (Is stealing of five paise is wrong)” ~ it is not that 5 paise but the act of stealing and the impact is not that of that single act – but that of attitude – when lakhs of people all steal 5 paise – the effect is manifold and corruption is the biggest disease that afflicts the Nation.  

Fodder or animal feed is any agricultural foodstuff used specifically to feed domesticated livestock, such as cattle, goats, sheep,horses, chickens and pigs ~ they are not costly and generally are available locally in most villages……….that a fodder scam has now made the Nation abuzz is something to ponder !!  ~ the scam had its origins in small-scale embezzlement by some government employees submitting false expense reports, which grew in magnitude and drew additional elements, such as politicians and businesses, over time, until a full-fledged mafia had formed.  It dates back to many eras……. Reportedly in  1985, the then Comptroller and Auditor General of India, T.N. Chaturvedi, took notice of delayed monthly account submissions by the Bihar state treasury and departments and wrote to the then Bihar chief minister, Chandrashekhar Singh, warning him that this could be indicative of temporary embezzlement. This initiated a continuous chain of closer scrutiny and warnings by Principal Accountant Generals (PAGs) and CAGs to the Bihar government across the tenures of multiple chief ministers (cutting across party affiliations), but the warnings were ignored in a manner that was suggestive of a pattern by extremely senior political and bureaucratic officials in the Bihar government.

It surfaced or blew out of proportions in Jan 1996 as ‘fodder scam’ when Deputy Commissioner Amit Khare raided offices of animal husbandry department, seizing documents showing syphoning of funds by non-existent companies in the name of supplying fodder. In March 96, Patna High Court directed CBI to probe the scam. Supreme Court upholds the order ~ and after 17 long years two former Bihar Chief Ministers Lalu Prasad and Jagganath Mishra along with 45 others have been  convicted by special CBI judge Pravas Kumar Singh.

It is stated that the Fodder Scam involved the embezzlement of about  9.5 billion from the government treasury of the eastern Indian state of Bihar; spanned many years, and allegedly involved numerous Bihar state's administrative and elected officials across multiple administrations of the Indian National Congress and the Janata Dal parties. The corruption scheme involved the fabrication of "vast herds of fictitious livestock" for which fodder, medicines and animal husbandry equipment was supposedly procured. Besides the magnitude and duration of the theft, the scam was and continues to be covered in Indian media cited as extensive nexus between tenured bureaucrats, elected politicians and business people.

Now the news is that a special CBI court in Ranchi pronounced all 45 accused, including Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and Member of Parliament Lalu Prasad, guilty in the Chaibasa treasury case of the Rs. 950-crore fodder scam. The Chaibasa treasury case that relates to the withdrawal of Rs. 37 crore is one of six fodder scam cases in which Mr. Prasad is an accused and the first in which a verdict has been pronounced. Mr. Prasad may now face an imprisonment of minimum three and maximum seven years when the sentence is announced on October 3. Of those sent to jail, former Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra was later admitted in the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences after he complained of some health problems when he was lodged at the Birsa Munda Central Jail. Besides the politicians there are Administrative officers, suppliers among others.  “The timing of the verdict is unfortunate. Since the court will remain closed from October 5 to 25, we will not even be able to appeal for bail for our leader Mr. Prasad,” said an RJD general secretary while waiting at the court.

Newspaper reports suggest that of 64 cases in the 1996-fodder scam, 53 were litigated in Ranchi and trials have been completed in 45 cases so far. One Investigation officer is quoted as stating that there is no street in Ranchi where we have not attached property bought from funds from the fodder scam; meanwhile, the prosecution is expected to finish examining witnesses by November in another case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs. 96 lakh from Deogarh treasury.

Laluji has had his moments under the Sun ~ his illustrious political career has set it appears now – by a crime that has dogged fro 17 years.  It is a collection of forces that has contrived to deny him his aspiration for another term – the conviction, the jail time, and more have acted to his detriment.  

Many have risen from dust to rich by dubious methods and not all may be convicted or jailed …. But this could prove detrimental and drive a fear psychosis at least in some who are still in power. The politics of patronage enabled a certain kind of blatant corruption that the 21st century Indian, eager for income not hand-outs, will no longer forgive. To some, it is not entirely about corruption – it also denotes what happens with loss of power.  The man now is a fallen politician now ~ there have been some who dangled closer, were convicted yet could scrape through.  Lalu had been to jail before in the mid 1990s, but then he was at the peak of his political power. The Government of Bihar was effectively run from jail. The fact would remain that politicians do not  fall from grace not when they are convicted in court- it is not irony but interesting as more events would unfold………

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

1st Oct 2013.

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