In the end, there were truckloads of documents, all pointing to the scam involving senior politicians and bureaucrats. Several agencies blew the whistle on the Rs. 950 crore scam but the powerful netas and bureaucrats, loathe to give up, tried to derail the investigations at several steps.
Soon after Amit Khare, deputy commissioner, West Singhbhum found proof littered on the floor of the animal husbandry department in 1996, he was transferred to the defunct Bihar State Leather Cooperation that had not paid salaries for six months. As chief minister, Lalu Prasad, attempted to stall the investigation in various ways.
Bidhu Bhushan Dwivedi, a police inspector with the Vigilance department, who submitted a report detailing the financial irregularities and the involvement of top political functionaries to the Director General of Vigilance G Narayan, was transferred out.
Successive reports between 1990 and 1994 by the accountant general were not tabled on the floor of the Bihar assembly. The AG, in successive reports for the years 1990-91 to 1993-94, pointed out excess withdrawals by the AHD from the treasuries. In a bid to manage the AG office, Lalu Prasad used scam kingpin S B Sinha, who, in turn, approached two officials of the AG office to settle the accounts. A former administrative officer of the AHD, R K Das, who turned approver, testified to this before a magistrate had stated u/s 164 Cr PC before the Magistrate that S B Sinha managed the AG office.
Sinha was the political handy man and Prasad gave him an extension a day before he was scheduled to retire.
When the then finance commissioner of Bihar V S Dubey pointed to the scam in the course of a review in 1996, he ordered raids. Embarrassed and alarmed, Prasad had no choice but to set up a high-power committee. In a classic move, he appointed Development Commissioner Phulchand Singh as the enquiry officer, even though Singh was the finance commissioner when maximum illegal withdrawals were made by the department. Singh was later made accused in the scam by the CBI. But before the committee began its probe, a senior officer close to Lalu Prasad directed the district officers to “go slow” in search operations. Another officer of the special secretary rank was dispatched to Jamshedpur prior to the arrival of the committee members to “influence” the district officers.
After the committee submitted the report, Lalu ordered action against some junior animal husbandry officers. This was a blatant attempt to divert attention from the role played by politicians and top bureaucrats.
Prasad also opposed a CBI enquiry but petition after petition was being filed in the state high court, including by the CM’s opponents. Even as the investigation by the CBI, Prasad used his clout with two prime ministers, dependent on his support — HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral — to order a ‘go slow’ but public pressure was mounting. During his tenure as railway minister in UPA 1, Prasad, Lalu tried to delay the trial process. In the end, the cows came home.
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