Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 25:
The vigilance case registered by the state government against former Odisha DGP Prakash Mishra reeks of mala fide and vendetta from its very conception to its grossly inept execution.
The case (Vigilance P.S. Case No. 35 dtd. 20.9.2014) falls flat on its face on its very premise. According to the press note released by the Vigilance department today, it has been registered under section 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, read with section 120 (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
But all that the Vigilance department has to offer by way of proof of ‘corruption’ and ‘criminal conspiracy’ is that an amount of Rs. 727.52 lakhs out of the Rs. 57, 86, 03,256 that was paid to steel and cement suppliers during Mishra’s stint as Chairman cum Managing Director (CMD) of Odisha Police Housing and Welfare Corporation (OPHWC) from 2006 to 2009 has remained “un-reconciled and outstanding for a long period beyond the closure of the financial year till date.”
So, it is ‘reconciliation’ and not corruption, after all!
There is absolutely no mention of any loss to the exchequer, no suggestion that the suppliers who were paid the amount pending ‘reconciliation’ failed to supply the goods requisitioned, no allegation that Mishra benefited materially from the amount lying ‘un-reconciled’.
Anybody with the slightest familiarity with the procedures for government purchases would know that reconciliation of payments is an ongoing process. If an amount has remained un-reconciled even four years after Mishra laid down office as the CMD, his successors should be held as guilty as the former DGP. But there is no mention of any of his successors in this regard. This proves that the act of registering a belated case only against Mishra was mala fide.
As for the charge of showing ‘undue favours’ to the suppliers, all that the FIR has to say was Mishra, when he was CMD, made ‘100% payments’ in advance to the suppliers.
The question to ask is: where exactly is the criminality or corruption in the whole thing?
If there was any, why is the same system still continuing?
Can the government vouch that there are no outstanding amounts pending reconciliation in OPHWC right now? Even the vigilance does not claim that it was a system introduced by Mishra or that it was disbanded after he left as CMD.
“If someone buys a dinner set of his choice through eBay, he pays the whole amount in advance. Where is criminality of eBay in it? It is the condition of sale,” pointed out a retired bureaucrat.
There is no suggestion anywhere that the suppliers were paid at rates higher than that prevailing at the time nor that the goods were never supplied or were of inferior quality.
If anything, Mishra made it a point to buy all materials from renowned companies with impeccable track record like Tata Steel to make sure that quality is not compromised. Making full payments in advance to such reputed manufacturers is not exactly unheard of.
A little backgrounder will help put things in perspective.
With rapid expansion of the police infrastructure in the state during the period, there was a quantum jump in the volume of work executed by the OPHWC from an average of just about Rs 50 crore a year to nearly Rs 200 crore a year during the 33 months Mishra was CMD. The four-fold increase in the volume of work necessitated purchases on a larger scale than in the past. Thus there was nothing eye-brow raising about the purchases or the mode of payment.
Let us for a moment forget the merits of the case lodged against Mishra. The one question that is exercising everybody’s mind is this: if a case of serious financial impropriety (as made out in the FIR) was indeed made out against Mishra, how is that the government appointed him DGP, no less, three full years after he left as CMD, OPHWC?
The second, and even more pertinent, question that begs an answer is: why now? It is clear that the sole aim of the case lodged against Mishra is to prevent him, as he himself told a local television channel today, from becoming the CBI director at the end of the term of current incumbent Ranjit Sinha three months from now.
With the noose tightening around bigwigs of the government, the ruling party and some top officials of the state police in the course of the ongoing CBI probe into the mega chit fund scam in the state, many powerful people in the administration had reasons to fear that they would be next in the firing line if an upright, no nonsense officer like Mishra becomes the CBI chief.
If the amount of muck thrown up during the probe by the CBI into the Great Odisha Chit Fund Scam so far – and that too without Mishra at the helm – is any indication, the strategists of the under fire government must be pissing in their pants thinking what would happen if, God forbid, the Supreme Court orders a CBI inquiry in the mining scam as well.
The mining scam, as anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the facts of the case knows, would not stop at the minor minions of the party and the government and would lead right up to the doors of Naveen Niwas.
“If he was not amenable to playing along with the ruling political dispensation when he was DGP (as he showed during the last elections), he is scarcely likely to succumb to pressure once he becomes the CBI boss,” goes the weird reasoning of the powers that be.
That the ‘clean and transparent’ Naveen Patnaik government was after Mishra became abundantly clear the day it decided not to recommend his name for central deputation on the laughable ground of ‘shortage of DG level police officers’ in the state. It became clearer when he was removed as DGP and shunted out to the nondescript post of CMD, Odisha State Road Transport Corporation (OSRTC), a non-police job.
So much for ‘shortage of DG level police officers’ !
The silver lining though is the NDA government in general – and Home minister Rajnath Singh in particular – appears to have seen through the sinister game plan of the Naveen Patnaik government. If it decides that the case registered against Mishra is guided by mala fide and goes ahead with the decision to appoint him CBI chief, then Mr Clean has had it.
And that precisely is what is giving Mr Clean and his minders the sleepless nights.