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RTI impact: top officer arrested

Police arrest Jagyeswar Nath, a deputy secretary in a state dpt, on charges of embezzlement in rural developmental schemes, reports Rahul Karmakar.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2007 21:49 IST
Rahul Karmakar

In November last year, a pro-peasant activist named Akhil Gogoi rode the Right To Information (RTI) Act to unearth a series of rural scams in central Assam’s Golaghat district. Seven months later, the law caught up with the man purportedly behind those scams.

The Golaghat police on Friday arrested Jagyeswar Nath, deputy secretary in the Assam Accord Implementation department, on charges of embezzlement in rural developmental schemes. Nath was the Golaghat DRDA project director from January-November last year, the period during which Rs 1.12 crore was spent on non-existent or fictitious beneficiaries.

“Nath was arrested and produced before the chief judicial magistrate here today,” superintendent of police Rana Bhuyan told HT from district headquarters Golaghat. He added that the ex-DRDA officer was picked up from Guwahati on Thursday.

Nath’s arrest followed the dismissal of a DRDA employee named Tarun Bora, also involved in the scams pertaining to Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Individual Beneficiery Scheme and Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana (SGRY).

Notably, Gogoi and his organization Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) had invoked the RTI to discover the scams.

Inspection of relevant papers revealed that Rs 35 had been paid to 12 panchayats for 140 non-existent IAY houses while Rs 25 lakh was disbursed to fictitious agencies for purchase of stationery items under SGRY. Moreover, Rs 52 lakh was “spent” on transporting PDS rice that never reached the beneficiaries.

Gogoi and other members of the KMSS had to bear the brunt of district officials, panchayat members as well as Youth Congress leaders allegedly involved in the scams. While Gogoi was forced to go underground, others were thrashed and even imprisoned.

HT had earlier this week run a report on how Gogoi and others of his ilk using RTI for an update on various developmental schemes were being victimized in Assam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s adopted home.

“The arrest of the former Golaghat DRDA project officer shows there is still some justice left in this country,” said KMSS advisor Padmalochan Nath. “We hope the others involved in usurping money meant for villagers would also be punished.”

Meanwhile, Assam Information Commissioner RS Mooshahary slapped a fine of Rs 250 per day on former senior superintendent of police SN Singh for refusing to provide information to a petitioner under RTI. A similar punishment was meted out to the Nagaon district SP.