Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bihar's anti-graft drive gets real

S Jha/ Patna

Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand have shown intent to confiscate properties of "corrupt" babus and use them for public purposes…

Time appears to be running out for corrupt babus to use their ill-gotten wealth to create assets. While Anna Hazare led campaign against corruption and for strong Lokpal find many takers, state governments are fast arming themselves with legislative provisions to confiscate properties of corrupt babus.
It all started with Bihar, a state which many people earlier used to condemn for deep rooted corruption, leading others to show corrupt bureaucrats are not spared. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had stated earlier that the idea to confiscate properties of babus and convert them into schools had dawned upon him during his Vikas Yatra in the state. He had recalled that people used to come to him during the Yatra, complaining of corrupt babus and their "palatial" houses, which used to be the envy of the whole neighbourhood.
The move of the Bihar government to confiscate a palatial house of an IAS office, who had been accused of corruption, in one of the posh colony of the state capital had turned out to be show-off achievement of Mr Kumar. Not only the incident hit the national headlines, other state governments too started taking note of the iniative.
While the Bihar government was turning houses of babus built by the ill-gooten wealth into schools, Anna Hazare too had touched the chord with the masses at large on the issue of corruption and need to recover loss to the exchequer due to the graft cases from the tainted officials. This appear to have hastened the process in replicating the Bihar iniative and in span of about six months a number of states, including Himachal Pradesh, Odhisa, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, joined the race to crack the whip against corrupt babus.
Meanwhile, the case of the IAS officer's palatial house, which was apparently valued for about Rs five crores, was handed over to the state human resource department to run a school in the premise following a cabinet decision of the state government. The three-storey house on Bailey Road in Patna belonged to suspended IAS officer Shiv Shankar Verma, which was also raided by sleuths of the special vigilance unit earlier and had seized assets worth Rs 1.5 crore. The Bihar government has put in place a mechanism under which such cases are tried in special courts and after the conviction of charges the assets of the convicted officials are confiscated by the state.
Even the Odhisa government appeared to have taken the cue from Bihar and confiscated a property of a corrupt IAS official and converted that into a health dispensary. While the Odhisa government has confiscated properties built by ill-gotten wealth of two IAS and one IPS officials so far, applications for attachment of properties of a number of accused persons have been filed in different courts in 197 cases out of which orders have been passed in 80 cases. The Odhisa chief minister had made the intention of the state government very clear by saying that he intended to use such assets for public purposes.
The Himachal Pradesh Assembly too has passed a resolution in a bid to curb corruption by making provision for special courts to attach and confiscate property amassed by corrupt means. The HP Special Courts (Attachment and Confiscation of property) Bill 2011 will provide for constitution of special courts for speedy trials in certain cases and attachment and confiscation of property accumulated by resorting to corrupt practices.
The Madhya Pradesh government too had earlier this year approved a bill to set up special courts for speedy trials of corrupt public servants and to confiscate properties earned through corrupt means.
The Uttarakhand Assembly too passed a legislation to constitute Lokayukta in the state which has been given the power to confiscate properties of the corrupt officials and others.
It's quite clear that the state governments are very well queuing up to be seen taking strong action against the corrupt. As the Parliament in its Winter session is likely to consider and pass a Bill for constituting Lokpal at the Centre with an enabling provision for Lokayukta in states, it appears quite clear that the building and showcasing assets built through ill-gotten wealth may not be a luxury for the corrupt anymore.

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