Is Vijay Bahuguna’s corruption eradication drive in Uttarakhand doomed for failure?

CorruptionDehradun : The recent announcement of chief minister Vijay Bahuguna that all departments will have vigilance cells in a bid to curb corruption notwithstanding, the fact remains that the malaise is so deep rooted in Uttarakhand that it is the departments that are ensuring that those who expose the corrupt are punished.

The whistle blowers who have gone to the concerned authorities and got officials caught red handed with the bribe money, rather than being rewarded have been at the receiving end. It is an irony that most of them are today living a life of misery and a hand-to-moth existence.

Take the case of Bhupendra Singh Rawat, a contractor in public works department in Tehri. He did a work of Rs 30 lakhs, but when the time came for his getting his payment, he was asked for a bribe of Rs six lakhs. He agreed to give the first installment of Rs 50,000 and informed the vigilance.

On Nov 24, the assistant engineer was caught red-handed with the bribe money and arrested. And as for Rawat, not only has his payment of bills worth Rs 35 lakhs been stopped, but he has also been black-listed by the department so that he can take no further works. He is today running from pillar to post.

Sachin Kumar, a Mangalore, in Haridwar district based contractor got an engineer of police headquarters arrested for demanding a bribe of Rs 25,000 on June 17 last year. But rather than his efforts being appreciated, the concerned department has black listed him so that he can get no further contracts.

Another contractor of PWD, Vishwajeet Aggarwal of Dehra Dun working on the national highway at Uttarkashi got two engineers of the department who had asked for Rs 60,000 and Rs 45,000 in November 09.

But rather than the corrupt being punished, Aggarwal having been black listed is cooling his heels.

Then there is Roorkee-based contractor Rajendra Singh who spilled the beans on an assistant engineer in Oct 09 and got the later caught red handed taking a bribe of Rs 20,000. Rajendra Singh has been black listed.

Rakesh Pant, a contractor of Karanprayag in Chamoli district exposed a junior engineer of Gopeshwar panchayat and had the vigilance catch the latter red handed while taking a bribe of Rs 10,000.

Pant was black-listed by the panchayat department and not given any further works.

One may say that these are isolated incidents of one department and maligning the entire babudom for some stray incidents of corruption would be wrong.

But the issue is who would expose the corrupt when the persons rather than being rewarded for their honesty in exposing the corrupt are being penalized to the extent that they are finding it hard to make ends meet.

One just has to move into the crowd and the stories of corruption, right from the top level of bureaucracy to the lower rungs of babudom doing the rounds indicate speak for themselves, and indicate the levels to which the malaise has taken root.

If the chief minister means business, rather than opening vigilance cells in departments, which would become nodal points of corruption in those departments, Bahuguna should suspend the officers who black listed the whistle blowers.

By doing so he will at least send a message that he means business if eradicating corruption and give the moral courage to the people to come forward and keep exposing the corrupt.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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