Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday recommended a CBI probe into what’s now being termed as Rs 1500 crore Srijan scam. Bhagalpur-based Srijan has been accused of swindling more than Rs 1500 crore in collusion with top government officials including the state’s deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi.
Kumar’s decision came after a high-level meeting on the the case in which government money was allegedly siphoned off by the and some public sector banks with government officials also being named suspects.
The government’s statement said, “The CM gave an order (to the state authorities) to hand over cases registered in the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation for inquiry.”
The meeting, as reported by news agency PTI, was attended by state Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, Director General of Police P K Thakur, Principal Secretary of Home Amir Subhani and Inspector General of Police (Economic Offence Unit) G S Gangwar.
The cases were being investigated by the economic offences unit (EOU) of the Bihar Police. The state police issued a lookout notice against secretary of the accused NGO, ‘Srijan’ and her husband for allegedly swindling over Rs 1500 crore of government money in Bhagalpur.
“The lookout notice against NGO secretary Priya Kumar and her husband Amit Kumar has been sent to all airports of the country to prevent them from leaving the country,” Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) S K Singhal said.
Priya Kumar is the daughter-in-law of Manorama Devi, the founder of the NGO. Manorama Devi died early this year after which the NGO was being run by Priya Kumar and Amit Kumar, son of Manorama Devi, officials said. Singhal said that the bank account of the wife of arrested District Welfare Officer Arun Kumar has been frozen in Bhagalpur.
Officials said during a raid, over Rs 1.50 crore was allegedly found deposited in that account. The ADG said 10 arrests have been made so far in connection with the scam.
What’s Srijan scam?
The NGO would accept government’s financial assistance in the guise of creating jobs for local women by engaging them in Sari making handloom. But, fresh evidence reveals that the handloom only existed on paper and the NGO essentially imported Saris from other parts of India and repackaged them at their centre in Bhagalpur.
On August 9 this year, the embarrassed Bihar chief minister was forced to dispatch a special investigation team (SIT) to Bhagalpur to investigate the scam as the opposition parties led by the RJD chief, Lalu Yadav, mounted pressure.
The SIT, headed by Gangwar, detected gross irregularities in the transfer of government funds to the account of the NGO. At least eight district magistrates (DMs), who have served in Bhagalpur since 2007, were on the radar of the SIT, reported The Telegraph.
The present Bhagalpur district magistrate, Adesh Titarmare’s, role is also being examined after two arrested public servants claimed that accounts of the district administration with the Bank of Baroda were opened in 2016 on the the DM.
The SIT also detected that crores of government money were transferred from the bank accounts of different departments, including Mukhyamantri Shahari Vikas Yojna in Bhagalpur district, with the help of NGO Srijan Sahayog Mahila Vikas Samiti.
Sushil Modi’s connection
Bihar’s Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav on Thursday demanded that Modi’s role be probed because government funds were transferred to private accounts between 2005 and 2013. This was the period when Modi was the finance minister in the state.
Tejashwi said that Modi was the finance minister when “crores were looted from people. None but Modi is responsible for it”.
Tejashwi’s dad, Lalu, demanded immediate sacking of Modi. He said, “Nitish Kumar should sack Modi immediately if he has zero tolerance against corruption, and arrest him. There are solid evidences of Modi’s involvement in the scam.”
Kumar had severed ties with the RJD last month claiming that Tehashwi’s name had featured in corruption charges. Moments later, Kumar had quickly formed an alliance with the BJP. In the new government, Modi was accommodated as the new deputy chief minister, a post he held in the first BJP-JDU government in Bihar.
Claiming that Sushil Kumar Modi is not the only senior BJP leader involved in the scam, he also alleged that other party leaders including MP Ashwani Kumar Choubey, Manoj Tiwari and former Union Minister Shahnawaz Hussain are also implicated. Urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take cognizance of the scam and order a CBI probe, he said the state government agency, probing the scam, is not reliable as Modi is involved in it, reported news agency IANS.
A public interest litigation was also filed in the Patna High Court on Wednesday by advocate Manibhusan Pratap, seeking a CBI probe into the scam. After days of investigation, a Special Investigation Team said crores were diverted
So far, eight people have been arrested, including Prem Kumar, an aide of the Bhagalpur District Magistrate, in connection with the scam. SIT officials said an FIR was lodged against board members of the NGO and officials of Indian Bank in connection with fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 10.26 crore fund of the Mukhyamantri Shahari Vikas Yojana. Two more FIRs were lodged in connection with fraudulent withdrawal of funds of the Land Acquisition Department.