Tuesday April 24, 2018
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Uttarakhand flood scam: How govt officials made merry over dead bodies

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By Harshmeet Singh

“Nero fiddled while Rome burned” isn’t a thing of history anymore. Some Government officials in Uttarakhand have actually demonstrated the true meaning of the phrase.

If you thought scams worth crores only take place inside closed doors of corporate offices with high level conspiracy meetings, the last couple of days would have come as a major surprise to you. The RTI query filed by Bhupendra Kumar of National Action Forum for Social Justice brought back the memories of one of the most devastating natural disasters to have hit the state of Uttarakhand. Unfortunately, these memories only serve as a reminder of government officials’ affinity towards scams and public money.

In 2013, the flash floods in Uttarakhand claimed over 5,000 lives. The heart wrenching scenes of boulders and water running towards people at a speed of several miles are still fresh in the minds. Soon after the weather cleared, the government machineries and insurance companies got into the act and sent their officials for relief work. As per the reply received by Bhupendra Kumar, these officials stayed in 5-star hotels which charged tariffs in excess of Rs 7,000 per day. If that wasn’t enough, the bills submitted by the officials show half litre milk being purchased at Rs 194! The other delicacies in the menu for the officials included Mutton, cottage cheese and gulab jamuns! These scrumptious meals were served to the officials at a time when thousands of people were stranded without food and water at many places for multiple days.

The other bills that were shamelessly submitted by the officials included diesel bills for scooter and motorcycles! Severe irregularities were also reported in the relief funds given to the people. A number of affected persons were given the relief amount twice.

State’s Chief Minister, Harish Rawat accepted the scam and told PTI, “I have ordered an inquiry into the allegations under the Chief Secretary. I can assure you that not a single guilty officer will be spared. These are serious allegations and if found true most strict action will be taken against the erring officials by the Government,”

Not impressed with Rawat’s statement, Ajat Bhatt, state’s opposition leader remarked, “If the state government has even an iota of morality left in it, it should recommend a CBI probe into the scam and resign owning moral responsibility for the ugly loot of money meant for people struck by an unprecedented tragedy.”

This has further added to the long list of scams under the Congress rule in the past decade or so. Interestingly, many media houses and the BJP have been continuously indicating that the Uttarakhand relief operations are turning into an ideal breeding ground for financial irregularities, but much like the other scams under its Governments, Congress decided to turn a blind eye towards these allegations.

Not the first time!

This isn’t the first instance of officials making merry over dead bodies. In 2004, Bihar was hit by one of the worst floods in its history, which caused close to 900 deaths. An investigation by a leading newspaper revealed that relief funds worth Rs 17 crore were untraceable with no authority having any answers. Gautam Goswami, Patna’s erstwhile district magistrate was suspected to have played a major role in siphoning off the funds. Embarrassingly enough, he was given the title of ‘Young Asian Hero’ by Time magazine for his outstanding contribution in the relief work in Bihar! Goswami died in 2009 due to pancreatic cancer. Among the other people involved in this scam was Sadhu Yadav, Lalu Prasad’s brother-in-law.

Our past experience with the scam gives enough indications about the future course of action. After years of enquiry and tens of charge sheets, a list of accused would come out. And it won’t be before a couple of decades at least that all judicial processes are over. By then, most probably, the main accused would be dead, thus bringing an end to another scam. While there are hardly any precedents to make us think otherwise, it would indeed be a pleasant surprise if, for once, our expectations are defeated and perpetrators are brought to book swiftly!

 

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Modi is anti-Dalit, will defeat BJP in 2019: Rahul Gandhi

Gandhi also accused the government of suppressing and intimidating the media

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Rahul Gandhi becomes president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi steps down
Rahul Gandhi steps in as President of Congress, Wikipedia

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government of being anti-Dalit and said his party will defeat the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Gandhi, who led his party’s day-long fast at Rajghat to highlight atrocities against Dalits and other communities, said party workers were protesting against an ideology, a way of thinking.

Rahul Gandhi becomes the president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi Steps Down
Rahul Gandhi is against Modi and his rule.

“The atmosphere that has been created in the country, it is due to the ideology of the BJP. BJP’s ideology is to divide the country, crush the Dalits, tribals, minorities. We are against the ideology of the BJP. We are standing against it today, we will stand against it throughout our lives. And we will defeat them in the 2019 elections,” Gandhi told reporters.

Asked about BJP Dalit MPs writing to Modi with their complaints, Gandhi said: “You talk to them in Parliament. They also tell us that Modiji is a casteist person, an anti-Dalit person. He has no place for Dalits in his heart, the whole country knows this. It is not a secret.”

Also Read: A voice of his own: Rahul Gandhi tries to impress Lok Sabha with his speech

Gandhi attacked BJP President Amit Shah for likening the coming together of opposition parties to “snakes, mongoose, dogs and cats” climbing a tree trunk to save themselves from floods. He said every person in the country was against the BJP.

“Some days back a BJP leader said that opposition members were animals. The truth is that today every person in the country is standing against the government. The approach that this government has against Dalits, tribals, minorities and farmers, we are standing against it,” he said. Gandhi said the country will not accept that Modi government “spreads violence, hatred in the country… We are standing here against this ideology.”

Raul Maino
Rahul Gandhi says Modi controls the Media. Twitter

Gandhi also accused the government of suppressing and intimidating the media. “You are standing on the other side but in actuality you are standing on our side as we are protecting you also. You are smiling, I know. We are fighting for you as well.” IANS