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Odisha Vigilance; lions against petty officials, mice against politicians

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Keonjhar, Jul 24:

Lions against petty officials, mice against the powerful: there can hardly be more appropriate and accurate description of the Odisha Vigilance going by its conduct in cases against the high and mighty, especially when they are politicians of the ruling party variety.

Jasobanta Singh Laguri
Jasobanta Singh Laguri

In a decision that defies all logic and principles of fair play and justice, the state Vigilance has refused to name former Keonjhar MP Jasobant Narayan Singh Laguri in the FIR in a case of misappropriation of public funds in which he is the main accused!

It has named all others who had a peripheral role in the case in the FIR, but has let the BJD leader off the hooks.

Left to itself, the Vigilance would never have even registered a case. Its hands were forced by the High Court, which directed it to lodge an FIR in the case in 2014 after locals took the matter to court. But it has made it clear that it has no intention of pursuing the case as evident from the fact that not a single person named in the FIR has been arested so far.

Laguri had serious allegations against him of misappropriating MPLAD funds worth Rs 20 lakh against him. The most bizarre part is that thw road construction work for which the MP had made the recommendation and for which his aide received Rs 20 lakh in two onstalments had already been constructed by Sharda Mines by spending Rs 31, 43,138 from its peripheral development funds in 2011!

Laguri had allegedly misappropriated money in April, 2011 by recommending the award of the construction work of the stretch of road from National Highway 75 up to Ashram School in ward no.9 of Ramla village under Champua block in favour of his personal assistant Jagannath Purti. The total estimate for the project was Rs 20 lakh. Following the recommendation, the then collector had ordered getting the pre-measurement done by the executive engineer of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA). The collector gave approval for the project and directed Champua block to undertake the work after the executive engineer gave his report.

Investigations by the Vigilance had revealed that despite panchayat samiti rules requiring the block chairperson’s signature for payments of any bill exceeding Rs 2 lakh, the block administration had paid Jagannath Purti, personal assistant of the then MP, Rs 10 lakh each in two installments without obtaining signatures of the block chairperson.

Despite complaints by villagers in the Vigilance alleging bungling in the construction of the road, no action was taken. Later, only after orders from the High Court that the Vigilance registered a case.

Local villagers have questioned as to how no case was registered against the former MP despite the fact that he recommended the construction of the already constructed road.