One of the main reasons JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar had managed to come to power in Bihar was because of his promise to rid the state of crime and corruption — the twin issues which had virtually become synonymous with the 15-year-old Lalu-Rabri regime.
In his initial days, Nitish seemed serious in tackling these issues but now he appears to be helpless before them. Especially, the rising corruption is virtually challenging the might of the Chief Minister who once had come out with a tough legislation which empowered the government to confiscate the ill-gotten wealth of corrupt officials and convert their homes into schools.
Nitish’s much-flaunted war on corruption came under fire last week when a contractor was burnt alive allegedly by the chief engineer of the water resources development because he had refused to pay a bribe of Rs 15 lakh to the latter.
According to the complaint registered with the police, contractor Ramashankar Singh had gone to the residence of the chief engineer Murlidhar Singh in Gopalganj district town on Thursday to seek payment of his pending bills amounting to Rs 60 lakh when the latter sought for a bribe of Rs 15 lakh for clearing his bills.
However, the contactor refused to oblige, leading to a verbal duel after which the contractor was doused with kerosene oil and set afire allegedly by the engineer and his associates.
The contractor suffered severe burn injuries and succumbed at a hospital in Gorakhpur town of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh early on Friday. The police have registered a case against the chief engineer and seven of his associates but all are absconding.
The incident amply explains how the morale of the corrupt official remains very high in the state.
Corrupt protected, court annoyed
The incident came barely a day after a senior judge of the Patna High Court Justice Rakesh Kumar noted in his order as to how the corrupt people have been getting “protection” from the court. The judge had made these stinging observations while hearing the case of an IAS official KP Ramaiah accused of embezzling Rs 5 crore meant for the welfare of the dalit people.
He was hugely annoyed at the way the IAS officer was granted bail by the vacation court while the Patna High Court and the Supreme Court had rejected his request for protection from arrest because of gravity of allegations against the officer who has fought the Lok Sabha elections on JD(U) ticket.
Last year, a man identified as Neyazuddin Khan was killed in Sitamarhi district for exposing corruption in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). But what is more alarming is that as many as five anti-corruption crusaders have been killed in 2018 for exposing corruption in the government.
A prominent RTI activist Shiv Prakash Rai revealed that as many as 13 RTI activists have been murdered in Bihar since the RTI Act came into force in 2005. “At least 600 anti-corruption crusaders have been implicated in false cases while more than a dozen have been done to death for exposing corruption,” Rai said.
“Every day, a new scam is getting unearthed. Corruption is flourishing in Bihar since Nitish Kumar has taken a U-turn over the issue,” alleged Bihar opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav.
According to him, a number of scams have surfaced during the Nitish regime which include Srijan scam, toilet scam, paddy scam, scholarship scam, MNREGA scam, uterus scam, medicine scam, BPSC scam but the chief minister remains silent.
The JD(U), however, termed these allegations as “wailings by widows”. “Our government neither implicates nor protects anyone. Law is taking its own course and none can escape the long arms of law,” remarked JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh.
Corruption cases registered an increase in recent months in Bihar despite the Nitish Kumar government legislating a harsh law to crack down on the corrupt officials.
Under this law, the state government has confiscated the properties of at least six top officials who included an IAS official and a former director general of police.
The government has also opened schools and orphanage in the confiscated bungalows of the officials to convey a strong message to the corrupt and announced to speedily try such cases. Yet the overall situation remains far from satisfactory now.