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New Delhi: A surfeit of recruitment scams in various government departments, including police and civil services, and the state assembly have rocked Uttarakhand, with massive protests in the state by youngsters who feel that these scams have prevented them from getting jobs.
Investigations into these scams have revealed how senior politicians and bureaucrats of Uttarakhand, and even Uttar Pradesh, have favoured their relatives and acquaintances in government jobs.
The Uttarakhand high court has sought a detailed report from the Pushkar Singh Dhami-led Bharatiya Janata Party government on the alleged irregularities in the appointments made by the Uttarakhand Subordinate Service Selection Commission (UKSSSC).
The state government, therefore, directed the special task force (STF) to probe the charges into the UKSSSC scam.
Separately, speaker Ritu Khanduri has ordered a probe in connection with the appointments made in the state assembly until a decade ago. However, she has sent the secretary of the assembly on a month’s leave on her return from a study tour abroad.
Congress leader suspects ‘cover-up’
The deputy leader of the Congress in the assembly, Bhuwan Chandra Kapri, had filed a petition in the high court seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the scams. He has alleged that by instituting multiple probes into the issue, the BJP government is attempting to cover up and hide the names of the accused.
While speaking with The Wire, Kapri, who had defeated Dhami in the Khatima assembly segment, alleged that the names of senior officials and political leaders have come out in the recruitment scam. “While the police are conducting a probe, it is trying to do a leepa-poti (cover-up) as it has found involvement of the people from the government in the scam,” he claimed.
The cover-up, he alleged, was being done in a systematic manner. “Some of the investigations have been handed over to STF and some to the vigilance department. However, when there’s only one issue, they [the BJP government] have assigned two agencies of the police to it. Also, if we look closely, in the assembly recruitment scam, even the chief minister is involved, and so are the speaker and all the ministers. So from whom would you expect justice?” he asked.
On why he has sought a CBI probe into the alleged hiring scams, Kapri said, “In West Bengal, when the recruitment scam surfaced in the education department, the Union government got the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to probe it. In Uttarakhand, there is a scam in the recruitment of various departments, be it in the appointment of officers or personnel in the police, judiciary, forest department, secretariat administration, teachers, block development officers, or even gram panchayat, and yet the Union government will not [allow the CBI to] probe it because a BJP government is at the helm.”
Probe into one scam reveals others
The STF investigation into the UKSSSC scam led to the arrest of several accused in various other scams, including those related to the recruitment of secretariat guards. In this case, it was alleged that the examination papers were sold in advance.
Added to that, another police recruitment scam in 2016 was also unravelled.
In the UKSSSC scam, the Congress leader alleged, there’s an alleged case of bribery for appointments. He further said that one of the accused in the case had named around 250 people in the scam.
The corrupt should be punished, irrespective of the parties they belong to, he added, acknowledging that the names of some Congress leaders have also surfaced in these scams.
Talking about the probe into the assembly recruitment scam, primarily focused on the earlier Congress governments, he asked what the BJP did as the principal opposition party then. He further said that the BJP, even after forming the government in 2017, did not take any action on the matter.
The investigation into the scam was only ordered after the accused in the UKSSSC scam revealed matters pertaining to it.
The assembly appointment scam
Speaker Khanduri had said that “till 2011, Uttar Pradesh rules were applicable to the assembly. In 2012, the state formed its own manual. First, appointments from 2000 to 2012 will be examined. If needed, appointments from the time of state formation to 2011 will also be brought under the scanner.”
The extent of these scams can be gauged from the fact that while Uttarakhand has just 70 MLAs, the number of staff members in the state assembly has over the years gone up to 560.
The Congress has demanded that the scope of the investigation be widened to cover the appointments made during the BJP rule as well. Overall, about 480 appointments were made to the assembly over the past 22 years.
State Congress president Karan Mahara has accused state finance minister Prem Chand Aggarwal of having recruited 129 people – wives of officers and people close to the ministers – to the state assembly in 2021, when he was the speaker.
He has also demanded that a high court judge should probe the assembly appointments, adding that an inquiry committee comprising former IAS officers cannot examine the legislature’s decisions.
Incidentally, other names which have emerged in this scam include those of former speakers Govind Singh Kunjwal and Yashpal Arya.
Kunjwal is said to have employed 150 people from 2012 to 2017. Many of these people were his relatives, including son and daughter-in-law, who were appointed through the back door.
Arya, who joined the BJP before the 2022 assembly polls, is also accused of making appointments when he was the speaker during the Congress rule from 2002 to 2007. As many as 105 people were appointed by him then.