BP SPECIAL: How bribe money has touched dizzying heights in past 10 years in Bihar
BY CK MANOJ
PATNA—Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi had kicked up a sort of political storms five years back when he publicly disclosed how his family had to pay bribe to the officials to settle an inflated electricity bill.
“Despite rapid progress in Bihar under Nitish Kumar, corruption could not be tamed. My family itself is a victim of corruption. The electricity department had sent an inflated power bill of Rs25,000 at my house in Gaya town a couple of years ago…my family members had to cough up Rs5,000 as bribe to the department officials to get the bill rectified even though I was a minister in the government,” was how Manjhi had revealed, addressing a meeting of rural development officers in August 2014. Although action was taken against the official concerned later after he registered a formal complaint with the government, the incident exposed the prevailing corruption in the state.
Well, corruption remains a matter of serious concern in Bihar despite the state legislating some harsh laws to tame graft in government offices. What has turned more alarming is the fact that the bribe money has gone up multiple times in the past one decade. The person who was paying something around Rs500-600 in 2009 are now made to pay a minimum of Rs10,000 as bribe to get the same work done whereas the maximum bribe amount has touched the dizzying height!
DETAILS OF HIGHEST BRIBE TAKING OFFICIALS
* Arvind Kumar, executive engineer—6 million (He had sought total bribe of Rs8 million)
* Suresh Prasad Singh, executive engineer—4 million (He had sought total bribe of Rs2.8 m), subsequent raids at his home led to further recovery of Rs23.6million.
* Om Prakash, additional district magistrate—Rs600,000, a subsequent raids at his residence led to recovery of another Rs559,900.
* Raja Ram Singh, land department clerk—Rs500,000
* Manoj Kumar Chaudhary, executive engineer—Rs400,000
* Maharshi Ram, additional collector—Rs400,000
* Kishun Mehta, clerk—Rs374,000
* Vinod Singh, circle officer—Rs200,000
* Sujit Kumar, motor vehicle inspector—Rs12,000 but raids followed after his arrest led to recovery of 46 million in cash from his residence.
* Inderjeet Rana, education department employee—Rs8,000 but subsequent raids at his residence led to recovery of another Rs368,500 in cash.
Call it the growing impact of soaring recession or the officials’ love for crispy currency notes, the bribery has assumed alarming proportions in the past 10 years. A close analysis of the report prepared by the Bihar Vigilance Department explains the average minimum bribe currently being demanded by the officials stands at Rs10,000 which is 20 percent up from what was sought in 2009.
The entire situation has turned further grim especially in the past two years with the average maximum bribe being demanded by the officials touching Rs100,000 if the Vigilance report is to be believed. The recent arrest of road construction department’s executive engineer Arvind Kumar who was caught with Rs1.6 million bribe is a perfect example of this.
Strangely, Rs1.6 million being paid to him was the first installment of total Rs8 (eight) million bribe he had demanded in lieu of clearing a Rs830 million worth road project to a construction company. The engineer had sought One percent commission of the total cost of the road project which comes to Rs8.3 million but the deal was ultimately settled for Rs8 million although he was arrested and jailed.
Prior to him, another executive engineer Suresh Prasad Singh of the same department had been caught-red-handed with a bribe of Rs1.4 million in June last year. A subsequent search of his home in Patna led to further recovery of Rs23.6 million in cash stashed under the beds, in suitcases and in lockers.
Earlier on October 9, 2019, a petty revenue clerk Raja Ram Singh was arrested from Nalanda district while taking bribe of Rs500,000 from a villager. He had initially demanded Rs2 million from the villager to get his work done but the deal was finally settled for Rs 500,000.
In September the same year, an official working with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Rajiv Ranjan was arrested from Saharsa while taking a bribe of Rs 257,000. This amply indicates how the corrupt officials were collecting huge amount of bribe from the common people.
DETAILS OF ACTION AGAINST CORRUPTION
* Number of cases registered against corrupt officials caught taking bribe in between since 2005—988
* Number of corrupt officials caught red-handed taking bribe—1,103
* Total number of corruption cases registered since 2005—1,433
* Number of officials convicted in corruption cases—153
* Number of officials whose property was confiscated—30
* Total value of confiscated property since 2010—Rs138.08 million
* Total confiscated bribe money from officials—Rs17.64 million
* Amount seized during raids from the houses of corrupt official—Rs34.32 million
* Number of charge-sheets filed in corruption cases registered since 2005—1,550
“We have no qualms in accepting that the bribe money has shot up alarmingly in recent years. This is very disturbing to all of us,” said a senior Vigilance Department official wishing not to be quoted.
“That is primarily because of the growing greed for money, high degree of immorality and non-contentment of their life. They (officials) refuse to learn lesson despite severe punitive actions being taken to tackle graft cases,” the official added. According to him, the people pay bribe to the officials more out of compulsion as the latter continue delaying their works for months and harass them in one way or the other when not being greased their palms.
According to an official report, a total of 1,433 cases related to corruption have been registered by the Vigilance Department in the past 10 years while 1,103 officials were arrested taking bribe red-handed. Of the total officials arrested, 153 have been convicted while 30 of them had their property confiscated so far. The government has now promised sustained and intensive campaigns against such people.
“The government has launched sustained campaigns to punish the corrupt officials and the vigilance department is doing everything to ensure they are convicted,” Bihar vigilance department secretary RK Mahajan has told the media. He said the altogether 44 officials have been convicted in the past five years adding the government has adopted zero tolerance on corruption to rid the state administration of corrupt officials.
.Graft situation is equally grave in the neighbouring Jharkhand state where 548 corrupt officials were arrested taking bribe in the past nine years. A maximum of 137 arrests took place in 2017 while this year, a total of 62 corrupt officials have been so far. One of them was Suresh Prasad Verma, a junior engineer with the rural works department. Although he was arrested with only Rs10,000 bribe money, a subsequent raids conducted at his residence led to recovery of Rs24.54 million in cash stashed in bags and suitcases.
“Corruption is at its peak in Bihar. No work is done without being paid bribe to the officials,” said prominent anti-corruption crusader Shiv Prakash Rai, a Right to Information (RTI) activist. He said the government was arresting only petty officials in the name of tackling corruption while no action is being taken against ruling party lawmakers and state politicians whose income has increased at least 100 times in past few years.
BRIBE RATES IN VARIOUS SCHEMES
* Bribe for getting a driving licence—Rs1,000 to Rs1,500
* Bribe for road construction project: The cut goes to different officials roughly this way:
Junior Engineer— .25 percent of the total project money
Executive engineer— 1 percent of the total project money (he is the drawing and disbursing
Superintending engineer— .25 percent
Chief Engineer— .25 percent
* Govt Housing scheme—Rs20,000 to Rs30,000
* Flat registration—1 percent of total flat value.
* Settling electricity bill—minimum 25 percent of the total bill amount
Rai also voiced concerns over the way how RTI activists were being killed for exposing corruption. According to him, at least 13 RTI activists have been murdered in Bihar since the RTI Act came into force in 2005 while another 600 anti-corruption crusaders have been implicated in false cases for exposing corruption.
Corruption continues to flourish in the state despite the fact that the Bihar government has initiated some drastic measures to tame corruption which include confiscating the property and bungalows of the officials and turning them into schools and orphanages. So far, the bungalows of at least four top government officials have been converted into schools and orphanages.
These officials include—Shiv Shankar Verma, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official who served as secretary to the minor irrigation department, Narayan Mishra, former Indian Police Service (IPA) officer who served as Director General of Police, Bihar, motor vehicle inspector Raghuvansh Kunvar and Girish Kumar, assistant in the office of Patna District Magistrate.