Haryana vigilance turning the heat on big sharks in government
Among the government officials caught red-handed in March are three Class-1 officers and 19 Class-3 employees
The Haryana vigilance bureau (VB) appears to be on a roll. Turning the gaze of its anti-corruption drive from earlier only chasing those in revenue and power departments demanding ₹1,000 bribe, the VB, in the past eight months, has gone after big sharks in the state government seeking kickbacks ranging from ₹5 lakh to ₹20 lakh.
In at least 59 cases (over seven in a month) registered by the VB under the Prevention of Corruption Act across Haryana between September 6, 2021 and April 20, 2022, 78 government employees (ranging from Class-4 to Class-1) were caught red-handed while accepting bribe.
The total bribe money in all these cases recovered was about ₹43 lakh, according to official data.
Among those in the VB net are Haryana Civil Service (HCS) officer Amrinder Singh Manais, deputy excise and taxation commissioner Raja Ram Nain, superintending engineer Ravi Sharma, Dr Inderjeet Singh (then posted in a PHC Sirsa), the then Karnal district town planner Vikram, jail superintendent Anil Kumar, executive engineers, SDO of pollution control board, branch manager of a cooperative bank, accountants, a district horticulture officer, police assistant sub-inspectors (ASIs), sub-inspectors (SI), inspectors, junior engineers (JEs), a mining officer, and a naib tehsildar.
“In most of the corruption cases registered in recent past, the focus of the VB has been to catch the big fish,” said Shatrujeet Kapur, director general (DG) VB, who has also served in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“Also, the focus of the anti-corruption drive is on to catch corrupt government servants operating from behind the official/officer seeking bribe. We are going a step further,” added Kapur.
According to the VB data, in the past eight months, the highest number of cases were lodged in March when 20 officials were caught in 17 trap cases. At least 10 cases were registered in February in which nine government officials were nabbed, while in December last year, 15 officials were arrested in eight trap cases.
Till April 20, at least six cases were registered and eight officials were arrested; and six cases were registered in September and seven officials were caught.
During this period, there were 13 trap cases in which eight patwaris were arrested for demanding bribe (lowest ₹1,500 and highest ₹4,000) and the linemen sought maximum ₹1,000 as bribe.
However, jail superintendent Anil Kumar was nabbed in December last year after he allegedly received ₹1 lakh bribe.
Chaman Lal, building inspector of municipal council Palwal, and the then Karnal district town planner Vikram were caught red-handed while accepting ₹5 lakh each as bribe. In the ₹20 lakh bribery (non-departmental) case, a Bhiwani district resident was nabbed.
Among the 20 government officials caught red-handed in March included three Class-1 officers and 19 Class-3 employees.
Superintending engineer Ravi Sharma and Ravi Shankar, accountant (municipal corporation, Faridabad) were caught with ₹1,40,000.
According to DG of the VB, the conviction rate of the trap cases is around 40% as in 20-30% cases the complainants turn hostile. “We are taking steps to improve the conviction rate,” Kapur said.
COMPLAINTS ON THE RISE
The VB is flooded with complaints. Against 2,681 complaints received in 2020-21 (over seven complaints a day), the number shot up to 3,599 (nearly 10 complaints a day) in 2021-22.
The highest number of complaints (24%) in 2020-21 and 25% in 2021-22 were against police.
“The complaints not requiring VB intervention were sent to the department concerned. The VB is also short of manpower. Nevertheless, we have been effectively dealing with the existing challenges by introducing reforms and sharpening the anti-corruption drive,” said Ajay Singhal, additional director general of police (ADGP-VB).
The VB data shows most of the complaints after police pertain to other department including prisons, development and panchayats, urban local body, power, education, revenue, town and country planning, health, food and civil supplies, etc.
The VB received 88 and 19 complaints, respectively, in 2021-22 against the Haryana Staff Selection Commission (HSSC) and the Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC), respectively.
The credibility of both the recruitment agencies was badly dented by a series of paper leaks and corruption allegations last year, posing a question mark over the Haryana government’s often repeated claim about “complete transparency and no corruption in recruitment”.