The Hazare effect in MP district
Posted September 5, 2011on:
The Anna Hazare effect has started showing up, if only one knows how to use it. A social activist of Damoh, a backward district in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh, has used it successfully.
Santosh Bharti has for long been crusading against illicit tree felling, illegal mining, illegal grant of favours to the chosen few and other forms of corruption and had dragged the State government many a time to the High
Court and the Supreme Court. Travels to Jabalpur (High Court) and Delhi (Supreme Court) to pursue his cases had naturally been telling on the health of Bharati, who also brings out a Hindi weekly from Damoh.
Last month he collected documents showing massive corruption in the execution of several projects of the water resource department in Damoh district in the past three years and approached the police to lodge an FIR against 15-odd persons, including the then Collector of Damoh, the engineers of the department, the contractors and the minister in charge of the department. The police refused. His pleas to the Damoh Collector and the Superintendent of Police did not help.
Instead of rushing to Jabalpur or Delhi to seek intervention of the judiciary, a cumbersome and lengthy process which the 70-year –old fragile-looking journalist-turned activist had been following earlier, he started an indefinite hunger strike at Damoh. He announced that he would not break his fast till the FIR against the alleged culprits was registered.
The district administration tried to argue its inability to register a case against the minister and the government officials as the government sanction was mandatory for doing so under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Santosh Bharati was not impressed.
It was in the aftermath of the momentous success that Anna Hazare had achieved in Delhi through his fast. The support Bharti received from the people for his fight against corruption made the district administration jittery. Apparently the Collector and the SP did not think that they were equipped to handle the emerging situation on their own.
So, they found a way out. They decided to write to the government for expeditious sanction for registering the case against the accused and defuse the situation. On the fifth day of Bharti’s fast, the police registered an FIR under Sections 420, 467 and 468 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) against some engineers and contractors of the water resource department for misappropriating the government money.
This is perhaps the first time, at least in Madhya Pradesh, that a district police chief has sought expeditious sanction from the government to proceed against a minister and an IAS officer and made his request to the government public. The SP’s letter to Santosh Bharti amounts to accepting, prima facie, the allegations of corruption against the accused. Bharti ended his fast on receiving the SP’s letter.
A free translation of the SP’s letter (in Hindi) of August 30 to Bharti says, inter alia: ‘you have requested in your complaint of August 16 to initiate action against several persons under Sections of IPC as well as of Prevention of Corruption Act for misappropriating crores of rupees of public money. If action is sought against government officials and employees under the provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Prevention of Corruption Act, 1982, Section 39 of the Act provides that no police officer can register a case against them till he receives a direction from the government to this effect.
‘The senior officials of the government have been informed about your complaint with the request to take a decision in this regard at the earliest. The Inspector General of Police and other officials of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) have also been informed. You submitted another complaint on August 24; that also has been communicated to the senior officials. The officials are posted every day about your fast and the condition of your health. Efforts are being made to expedite the decision in the matter. I (the SP) am also personally keeping in touch over the phone with the senior officials in this regard.
‘The Damoh district administration is trying its best to get the matter expedited. Such things, however, take time. You are a 71-year-old “youth”; your health is very valuable to the society as well as to all of us. You may therefore end your fast on our assurance that the criminal case will be registered against those named in your complaint as soon as the sanction from the government is received.’