CBI's nationwide raids on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) premises and subsequent arrests of an IG and a DIG yesterday have exposed a nexus of "middlemen and top officials" in carrying out illegal recruitment of security personnel for the anti-naxal force COBRA.
Investigations into the scam have so far revealed that candidates who did not meet the prescribed physical standards and other criteria were recruited in the force in connivance with certain top-ranking officers, who allegedly received illegal gratification.
CBI officials, on condition of anonymity, told HT that each candidate who was illegally recruited was charged Rs 1.5-2 lakh depending on his capacity -- either in lumpsum or at various stages of the selection process.
After the CRPF announced to recruit 700 personnel in Bihar, IG (Bihar Sector) Pushkar Singh set up four recruitment boards with officers of "choice" as presiding officers. These 'handpicked' officers allegedly selected undeserving candidates disregarding the prescribed standards. As per reports, the touts paid about Rs 50,000 as bribes to the IG in each case.
"The IG and DIG have confessed that they were approached by touts for selecting candidates, who were willing to pay the bribes. In most cases, money was taken at every stage of the selection process, including physical tests, written and interviews," the officials said. In some cases, however, the money was returned to the candidates who could not clear the tests.
While the board cleared 'favoured' candidates during physical tests even though they didn't meet the criteria of height, chest, etc, the tainted officials ensured the candidates passed the written test by "subjective marking of their answer sheets".
Yesterday, after carrying out the raids, the CBI arrested six persons, including CRPF IG (Bihar sector) Pushkar Singh, DIG (Muzzafarpur Group Centre) T.L. Baxla and commandants Yajbinder Singh and B.S. Sidhu. The agency also nabbed kingpin Mukesh Kumar and his wife Swati Bhardwaj, besides two other touts Tripurari Kumar and Sindhu Nath Sharma for their alleged involvement in irregularities in recruitment of the CRPF constables in Bihar.
While the IG was arrested in Patna, DIG Baxla in Ranchi (Jharkhand), outgoing commandant (Jamshedpur) Yajbinder Singh in Yamunanagar (Haryana) and commandant (Daltenganj) Sidhu in New Delhi. Sidhu was arrested by a CBI team in Delhi while he was in the process of receiving money from one of the touts.
The agency is also investigating whether there was any role of other top CRPF officers in this scam. The CBI had registered a case in Delhi in this regard a few days ago .
CRPF is one of the oldest and most deployed force in states and national borders of India. It has strength of over 1.8 lakh personnel. The force has been deployed for maintenance of internal security and peace in the country in the strife-filled period since Independence.
CBI officials told HT that IG Pushkar Singh - a CRPF cadre officer who was among the frontrunners to be promoted in the rank of the Additional Director General (ADGP) -- was allegedly involved in the 2007 CRPF recruitment scam in Bihar as well. The entire recruitment, however, was cancelled later after reports of irregularities in the process.
CBI teams conducted raids on the offices and houses of several senior CRPF officers and the touts in different parts of India, including Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana and UT Chandigarh, and seized incriminating documents, property papers and Rs 1.15 crore. Of this, the agency recovered Rs 70 lakh cash from the premises of tout Mukesh Kumar.