Have bureaucrats fallen prey to witch-hunt?
THE PROBE into the Rs 700-crore plus ICD (Inter-Corporate Deposit) scam started by the Uma Bharti government apparently to fix former chief minister Digvijay Singh, seems to have now become a major headache for some bureaucrats while the wily Raja is sitting pretty in Delhi.india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 12:38 IST
THE PROBE into the Rs 700-crore plus ICD (Inter-Corporate Deposit) scam started by the Uma Bharti government apparently to fix former chief minister Digvijay Singh, seems to have now become a major headache for some bureaucrats while the wily Raja is sitting pretty in Delhi.
In order to fructify her pre-election promise, Uma Bharti got down to fixing Digvijay Singh on some corruption charges immediately after winning the historic election. One of the ways thought of by her advisers was to tighten screws on civil servants who were supposed to be close to Digvijay Singh, hoping that they would squeal on the Congress leader.
S R Mohanty was one such officer. And the ICD scheme under which a number of business houses and individuals were extended loans, was thought to be a fit case as most of these people and companies had not returned the advances because of which the Madhya Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (MPSIDC) had to suffer a loss of over Rs 700 crores.
In one of the files relating to the ICD scam, the then GAD (General Administration Department) Secretary V S Patidar noted on July 16, 2004, that “This case relates to one of those officers, whose names figure in the list of officers desired by HCM office.” (HCM here refers to ‘honourable chief minister’ Uma Bharti and the page where this noting is done pertains to Mohanty’s case).
Mohanty had been removed as MPSIDC managing director after a month of Uma Bharti’s taking over. And in came Raghav Chandra who was more than willing to go along with his political bosses. In June 2004 Chandra held a press conference giving details of the un-recovered loans. On July 19, 2004, the then GAD Secretary S S Wankhede wrote to the Director General of the State Bureau of Investigation into Economic Offenses (SBIEO) to enquire into the case and submit enquiry report to GAD immediately.
SBIEO, however, did not send any enquiry report though a case was registered against the loan defaulters, Mohanty, his predecessor M P Rajan who had long ago taken pre-mature retirement, and even Ajoy Acharya, an IAS officer of high integrity, and Ram Moorthy, former zonal manager of IDBI merely because they were present in a meeting of MPSIDC’s Board of Directors.
Then onwards, it became clear that the government was more interested in witch-hunting, rather than recovering the loans. (In a couple of days, we will give details how because of the criminal cases the recovery of the loans has almost stopped).
It is pertinent to mention here that some other states like Punjab and Maharashtra had also launched similar schemes, and several borrowers defaulted but the state governments had found ways to handle the problem without resorting to criminal cases. This approach was adopted apparently because they feared that fresh investments would not come if industrial houses were troubled like that.
Repeated reminders of the GAD to SBIEO fell on deaf ears and no enquiry report was sent till January 23, 2006, by which time it was too late. In the absence of an enquiry report, former chief secretary Vijay Singh viewed the ICD issue as a civil matter. (Apparently because of a sympathetic attitude being taken by the CS, Mohanty, who was desperately seeking a posting with the Central Government, meanwhile, filed a writ petition in the High Court praying for quashing of the FIR. It was necessary for him as his posting with the Centre was difficult without that).
In response to GOI’s queries about Mohanty’s case, Vijay Singh sent several letters under his own signatures informing them that: The advances made during Mohanty’s tenure as MPSIDC MD were very few and they were done with due approval of the Board; and that Mohanty made vigorous efforts to recover the advances made by his predecessor, and he did succeed to a large extent; and that “the State Government is of the opinion that Shri S R Mohanty... has neither committed any irregularity nor has he caused any loss to the government.” (April 21, 2005).
In another letter dated May 31, Vijay Singh wrote to the GOI that “...Mohanty is clear from vigilance angle and no departmental action is contemplated against him. His integrity is certified and it is recommended that his name be retained for deputation to Government of India.”