CBI raids 16 West Bengal civic bodies in recruitment case
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in recruitment of various posts in different municipalities of the state in recent years
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday raided 16 municipal corporations in West Bengal in connection with an alleged recruitment scam, officials aware of the matter said, triggering a sharp reaction from chief minister Mamata Banerjee who accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre of trying to divert attention from the recent train accident in Odisha.
A team of around 100 CBI officials, escorted by personnel belonging to the central paramilitary force, raided the 16 civic bodies and seized multiple documents from Nadia, Hooghly and North 24 Parganas districts, and Salt Lake municipality on the eastern outskirts of Kolkata, officials said. The team also searched the office of the state municipal affairs department, they added.
“The recruitment of temporary staff is done locally by civic bodies while all permanent staff are selected by the municipal affairs department. All recruitments are under scanner,” a CBI officer said on condition of anonymity.
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in recruitment of various posts in different municipalities of the state in recent years. CBI is probing the matter on the directions of the Calcutta high court. On May 22, a vacation bench upheld the April 21 order of a single bench for a probe by the federal agency into the purported scam.
Banerjee condemned the raids and accused the Centre of trying to suppress the cause of last week’s triple train accident in Odisha’s Balasore district, which has claimed 288 lives so far and left over 1,100 injured. CBI is also probing the train tragedy.
“I thought I would not bring it up here but circumstances have forced me. The biggest railway accident of this century has taken place but efforts are being made to suppress it. Those who lost everything demand an explanation. Why did the accident take place? How could so many people die? What will CBI do? It can only probe a criminal case,” she said.
Banerjee made the remarks while speaking at a government programme held in Kolkata to distribute compensation to families of the victims of the train accident.
“Instead of probing the train accident, CBI has been sent by Delhi to 16 civic bodies. What do they want? Will they enter toilets now? That is the only place left. These tactics cannot suppress the truth behind the railway disaster. You cannot hide fire under ash,” she said.
Municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim questioned the need for CBI to visit the civic bodies and said the matter was being politicised. “I don’t know how the civic bodies handled the local recruitments, but this can be easily done by a committee comprising district magistrates and civic officials. I don’t know why CBI is going to the civic bodies? They could have sought the documents they need. This is all politics,” he said.
The BJP, however, targeted Hakim for feigning ignorance.
“CBI has not yet said that Hakim is a suspect. Why is he defending himself in advance? Thousands of recruitments took place in recent years and he is saying he knew nothing,” state BJP chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said.
On April 21, a single judge bench of justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay directed CBI to probe the alleged recruitment scam in civic bodies while hearing on a case pertaining to irregularities in recruitment by West Bengal School Service Commission (SSC).
The order came after a report submitted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing the SSC case along with CBI, said documents recovered from the home of a suspect, Ayan Sil, indicated that similar corruption took place in numerous civic bodies.
Sil used to run a recruitment agency that was hired by several civic bodies, ED told the court. His residence and offices were also raided by CBI on Wednesday.