It pays to be a chief minister’s aide in Jharkhand

Ranchi, Feb 20 (Calcutta Tube) Becoming a private secretary to a chief minister seems to have become an easy route to riches in Jharkhand in the last four years. This week’s raids on current Chief Minister Shibu Soren’s aide M.L. Pal, which reportedly unearthed undisclosed assets worth Rs.65 crore, is just the latest in a long series.

Pal continues in his post as the chief minister’s personal secretary. Vivek, another ex-personal secretary of Soren, still moves around with the chief minister carrying files, though he does not have any official post.

Last year, the Central Bureau of Investigation raided the house of Vivek, who uses only one name.

Harendra Singh was personal secretary of former chief minister Madhu Koda. When Koda was being investigated for the Rs.2,500-crore scam for which he is now in jail awaiting trial, income tax (IT) officials raided Harendra Singh’s houses last October and found documents related to investment and assets worth of crores of rupees.

And if it is too difficult to become a chief minister’s aide, personal secretaries of other ministers have not done too badly either.

Manoj Kumar Singh was the aide of Chandra Prakash Chaudhary, who was water resources minister in the Koda government. After raiding his home last year, IT officials said they had found documents related to investments and assets worth Rs.12 crore.

Also facing a charge by the state vigilance department, Manoj Kumar Singh was sent to judicial custody this week in connection with a graft case.

Atish Kumar Singh was private secretary to ex-minister Enos Ekka and Uma Shankar Malviya to Bhanu Pratap Sahi, another former minister. IT and vigilance department officials have charged both with making a fortune in a very short span of time.

‘It seems that personal secretaries are more powerful than senior government officials. It also appears that these aides and ministers connived in corruption and helped both in making fortunes in a short span of time,’ an official of the Jharkhand vigilance bureau told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He pointed out that these aides, as well as the ministers they served, seemed to have amassed their fortunes in the last four years.

‘There is need to investigate the source of income of personal secretaries who managed to amass assets worth crores and invested money in different places,’ spokesman of Congress Party’s Jharkhand unit Radha Krishan Kishore told IANS.

‘The source of income will unveil the root of corruption. Personal secretaries do not have direct power to influence government work. The role of political bosses of these personal secretaries should also be probed.’

IT and vigilance bureau officials say the get-quick-rich story of Pal is illustrative.

The raid in his homes Feb 16 — part of the raids at 70 places in 13 Indian cities in connection with the charges against Koda — not only found documents related undisclosed assets worth Rs.65 crore but also showed that Pal owned two bungalows in Ranchi and Jamshedpur, an IT official said.

Pal used to work in a Coal India Limited (CIL) subsidiary in Ranchi but was sacked because he had got his job with a fake cerificate. He became Shibu Soren’s personal secretary in August 2008, in an earlier stint by Soren in the chief minister’s post.

This time too, Pal was appointed personal secretary as soon as Soren took over as chief minister, a post in which he continues despite the raids.

Apart from Koda, three Jharkhand ex-ministers are in jail awaiting trial in cases of possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income — Enos Ekka, Harinarayan Rai and Kamlesh Singh.

(Nityanand Shukla can be contacted at nityanand.s@ians.in)

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