B Chandrakala: How a ‘dabangg’ IAS officer landed into illegal mining quagmire
Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Bhukya Chandrakala, 38, who has been accused of corruption in the illegal mining case being probed by the CBI, was known as a ‘dabangg’ (fearless) officer popular on social media before her fall from grace.
The alleged scam dates back to 2012-16 when the Samajwadi Party was in power under Akhilesh Yadav.
Chandrakala, a 2008-batch IAS officer, was best known for taking action against her subordinates, mostly due to her widely-circulated videos in which she went on surprise inspections, pulling up civic officials over lack of quality in building material or poor sanitation.
Popular As A Fearless Officer
Her stint as Bulandshahr DM was an eventful one. She first came into limelight for expressing outrage over substandard quality of construction work and even confronted local politicians.
Her videos reprimanding municipal corporation officers for poor quality construction of pavement and sewer line went viral. In the video, she is heard threatening the officials that she would lodge an FIR against them if they indulged in corruption.
Later, she registered a case against contractors at the local police station.
Residents of Bulandshahr recall that she maintained a good relationship with the media but a ‘selfie episode’ turned a section of the media against her.
It all started when a youth from a nearby village walked up to her outside her office and clicked a selfie with her without her consent.
She objected to it and handed over the boy to the police. When a mediaperson called her up for her comment, she allegedly used objectionable language which resulted in a war of words between her and a section of the media for several months.
The controversy ended only after Chandrakala was transferred to Meerut as DM.
An officer who worked under Chandrakala in Bulandshahr said, “She always maintained a cordial relation with her staff. The CBI raids against her seem to be a political move,” he said.
During her tenure in Meerut, students of various schools created the world record of making the longest painting on a single day.
Vishal Jain, owner of one of the schools which participated in the event, said: “She was very cooperative during the event which helped the students in creating a world record.”
Accused Of Extending Largesse To Mining Syndicate In Hamirpur
In Hamirpur, where the average tenure of a DM is one year, Chandrakala remained for three years from 2012 to 2015.
She was moved out of the district amid allegations of illegal mining under her watch by a mining syndicate allegedly headed by SP MLA Ramesh Mishra.
According to Vijay Trivedi, on whose PIL the Allahabad high court ordered a CBI inquiry, she went for an image makeover after her Hamirpur stint.
“Hamirpur, however, remembers her as pliant to politicians and an officer who did everything to help the mining mafia. This was perhaps the only reason she stayed that long in the criminally sensitive district,” he said.
Those who have worked with her in Hamirpur recall that Mishra had free access to the DM’s residence.
“He would arrive unannounced and go inside without informing the staff. That was the clout of someone who was deep into illegal mining,” said an officer who was posted in Hamirpur in 2014.
In his public interest litigation (PIL) petition, Trivedi highlighted two aspects — issuance of 41 leases of mines and unabated illegal mining.
“The leases were not only found to be issued against rules but in many cases, fraudulent means were employed to issue them. As a result, the high court quashed all the leases and ordered a CBI inquiry,” said Trivedi.
“The then ADM Ramesh Prajapati filed an affidavit in the court claiming that no illegal mining was taking place in the district. The ADM had filed the affidavit on behalf of the district magistrate, superintendent of police and mining officer, who were asked by the court to do so,” he said.
However, a day after the affidavit was filed, Trivedi came up with evidences which showed that Rs 75 lakh were deposited as fine levied by the administration on a person for illegal mining.
More documents were submitted about trucks illegally transporting red sand seized by the police and the ARTO, which collected Rs 19 lakh as fine.
“There are many evidences to prove her association with the mining mafia. The CBI has established a money trail allegedly leading to Chandrakala. In one example, the CBI has found that days before certain mines were leased out to a member of a mining syndicate, he transferred money to an account in the State Bank of India which belonged to a relative of Chandrakala.”
A Symbol Of Women Empowerment In Mathura
During her posting as Mathura DM, Chandrakala became a symbol of women empowerment.
Her term during the Akhilesh Yadav government was marked by a unique coincidence as almost all the prominent officials in Mathura were women.
Besides Chandrakala, the other prominent women faces at that time in Mathura were member of Parliament Hema Malini, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Manzil Saini, chief development officer (CDO) Durga Shakti Nagpal and chairperson of Nagar Palika Manisha.
Chandrakala was posted to Mathura from Hamirpur, but she could not enjoy a long tenure. She was transferred to Bulandshahr in the same capacity within a year.
Residents of Mathura remember her as a fearless officer.
Dr Laxmi Gautam, a social activist and founder president of Kanakdhara, an organisation working for social causes at Vrindavan, recalled Chandrakala as a no-nonsense officer known for her ‘dabangg’ style of working.
While refusing to comment on the ongoing CBI investigation against Chandrakala, she said: “There are many people on social networking sites who are now talking ill of the same lady officer with whom they once used to proudly share their photographs.”
“As Mathura DM, Chandrakala was a regular visitor to the state children home and used to spend time with inmates. She stood for the cause of the deprived. We know her as an officer with a big heart,” she said.
Several others in Mathura are not able to accept what is now being revealed about Chandrakala, who, according to them, was a straightforward and a popular officer in Mathura and Vrindavan.
According to residents, she did not have many friends in political circles due to her style of functioning and could not stay long in Mathura.
Family In Shock
Chandrakala, who hails from Karimnagar district in Telangana, has been separated from her husband A Ramul Naik in Karimnagar district for the last three years.
According to a source close to her family, Naik, belonging to Yellareddypet in Siricilla district, is presently working as executive engineer in Sriramsagar Project in Karimnagar, and is fighting a divorce case filed by his wife.
He has gone on leave since the CBI case against Chandrakala surfaced and has switched off his mobile phone. Chandrakala is also said to be on study leave.
Chandrakala married Naik when she was in her second year of graduation in geography at Koti Women’s College under Osmania University, in Hyderabad, in early 2000.
“The couple has a daughter Kirthi Chandra, now around 10 years. She is said to be staying with her mother,” a family acquaintance said.
Chandrakala’s father B Kishan, who retired as senior technician with Fertiliser Corporation of India in Ramagundam in Peddapalli district (earlier part of Karimnagar) died recently and her mother Lakshmi is staying alone at Gowliwada colony in Ramagundam, where she owned a rice mill, which is now not in operation.
Lakshmi expressed shock over the raids on her daughter’s residence. She told local media that she had no information about any such case against her daughter. “She is a tough woman and I hope she would come out of the case,” Lakshmi said.
Born on September 27, 1979, Chandrakala hailed from Banjara tribes. She is the third child in the family and has two brothers and a sister.
After her marriage, she continued to pursue her studies and completed her post-graduation from Osmania University through distance education. She cracked Group-I services examination conducted by Andhra Pradesh Public Service Commission and emerged as a topper in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. She was appointed as the deputy registrar of cooperative societies.
Simultaneously, she started preparing for the All India Civil Services examinations of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). She could not succeed in her first three attempts, but in the fourth attempt in 2008, she secured the 409th rank.
She was allotted the UP cadre and has worked in Allahabad, Hamirpur, Mathura, Bulandshahr and Meerut, before being picked up by the NDA government as director of Swachch Bharat Mission under the Union ministry of drinking water and sanitation in 2017.
Soon, she was repatriated to her parent cadre and posted as secretary, Madhyamik Shiksha Vibhag.
(With inputs from Haidar Naqvi in Kanpur, S Raju in Meerut, Hemendra Chaturvedi in Agra and Srinivasa Rao Apparasu in Bengaluru)
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