Stop the Official Theft by MOHD. ZEYAUL HAQUE (JULY 11, 2007)

Despite sporadic attempts to bring in some transparency to the mysterious working of bureaucracy massive official corruption remains a fact of life. Such corruption is the single largest factor responsible for the economic backwardness of the country.

There are a thousand and one ways in which official corruption thrives, one of them being gross misuse of public funds and other resources. An interesting example is provided by a recent expose published in a Hindi daily on Meerut divisional commissioner and the Meerut Development Authority (MDA) vice-chairman’s daily petrol consumption.

The commissioner’s official car has been shown to be consuming petrol worth over Rs 2,000 a day for the last one year, while the fact remains that his office is located at a small walking distance from his residence. Even if his infrequent official tours are accounted for, the daily petrol expense would just be a fraction of the inflated bill.

The case of MDA vice-chairman’s fuel use is even more astounding. The fuel for the commissioner’s car was being provided by the MDA. Naturally, the MDA babus must have been inclined to "use" more fuel in their own boss’s car. A departmental enquiry was ordered by the administration after the publication of the expose, interestingly titled Tel ka khel .

The enquiry officer, MDA secretary Shailendra Chawdhary, has said that early investigations point towards a massive racket. The MDA babudom seems seriously disturbed. Orders to conserve oil have been passed, but these orders are applicable to the officials below the vice-chairman and secretary only. That looks like just a white wash to deflect attention from the scandal.

The present fuel allocation mechanism was established by the then newly appointed vice-chairman of MDA, Shashi Shekhar Singh, last year. According to details obtained by the newspaper the MDA used Rs 42 lakh on fuel purchase and repairs of its vehicles in the last one year. Half of the amount was spent on the commissioner’s, vice-chairman’s and secretary’s cars, besides on those of some of the other senior officers.

The departmental enquiry is not appropriate because the person (the secretary) who is among the top few persons to get such a huge fuel allotment cannot be an impartial investigator in the scam. What is more amazing is that even the lowly personal assistant to the vice-chairman got Rs 1,39,916 in fuel expenses in one year.

If the UP government is serious about stopping official theft of public money it should drop the departmental enquiry and replace it with a CBI probe. Once the CBI report comes in it should waste no time in sacking the indicted and bringing them to court.

Mohd. Zeyaul Haque


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