Corruption in public life is obviously not the SAD-BJP government’s priority in Punjab. For almost a month now, the state vigilance bureau is without a head, and as a result there is no work happening in the bureau.
Till last month, the bureau was headed by current DGP Suresh Arora, who was its chief director. However, once he was made the state DGP on October 25, the government has not bothered to post anyone in his place.
Interestingly, in the absence of the chief director, no fresh FIR can be registered in the bureau, nor can a fresh vigilance enquiry (VE) be ordered. Though the bureau has three IG-level officers manning various sections, including one who is the director, VB, these officers are not empowered to initiate any fresh probe at their level. Other than IGs, the VB also has a host of DIGs, all of who are just twiddling their thumbs, till the government posts someone as chief director.
The reason for the complete paralysis of the VB in the absence of the chief director is an order passed by Suresh Arora when he took over as chief director in 2012. As chief director he withdrew powers delegated to DIG s and IGs to be able to register FIRs and initiate VEs, vesting all these powers in himself.
Though it is not clear why these all-important functional powers of the VB were centralised in the chief director, VB officers hazard different guesses. One set of officers feel this was done to remove the possibility of the blatant misuse of the VB as a political tool to “fix” political opponents which had been happening for years. Another set of officers say this was done because chief minister Parkash Singh Badal “trusted” only Arora to be virtuous enough to be able to stamp out corruption in the state. Others point out that through Arora the CM maintained a vice-like grip on the VB, hastening or delaying action against officers and politicians and also ensuring that their dirty linen is not washed in public.
Whatever the reason, the result has been that other than routine file work and undertaking trap cases, the VB is virtually lying defunct. In April, the chief minister ordered a probe into serious allegations of irregularities in the functioning of IAS officer Gurdev Singh Ghumman as secretary of the Punjab State Technical Education Board. Though the probe was to be completed within a month, the VB is yet to submit the report. Sources said though the report is ready with the officer concerned, in the absence of the chief director, it could not be submitted.
Similarly, following the registration of an FIR against retired IAS officer Mandeep Singh by the VB in September, an SIT was constituted within the VB to investigate the case related to the officer having amassed disproportionate wealth. The head of the SIT was 1998 batch officer Nilabh Kishore, who has recently been transferred from the VB. Since there is no chief director, no officer has been chosen to replace him. The investigation into that FIR is also lying pending. Moreover, despite the VB having gathered several source reports about instances of corruption, fresh vigilance inquiries, too, cannot be initiated in the absence of the chief director.