In the month of August, Jharkhand’s former Health Minister Bhanu Pratap Shahi and former Health Secretary Pradeep Kumar (I.A.S.-1991 Batch) had surrendered in a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) Court in Ranchi for their alleged involvement in the NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) Scam running in excess of Rupees 130 crore during the period from 2008 to 2009.
The National Rural Health Mission, in short NRHM, is a Central Government sponsored scheme and it is meant to provide better medical facilities to the rural population in a state. With overwhelming majority of Jharkhand’s populations living in rural areas, the proper implementation of NRHM is imperative. But it does not really happen in Jharkhand.
On May 5 2011, the CBI Court had issued an arrest warrant against Shahi but since then he had been on the run. Shahi and Pradeep surrendered only after the CBI Court’s order regarding the attachment of his property. The CBI team had earlier visited their 14 properties and houses at Ranchi, Bhawanathpur, Jaipur, Sonbhadra and Delhi at least 20 times, to arrest them; but they always gave them a slip. Finally after running around for months to arrest them, the Special Judge N.N. Singh of CBI Court ordered the attachment of their property in case both of them do not surrender within a stipulated time, the public-notice to effect was pasted on their properties. However, before the attachment order could be executed, a smiling Shahi appeared in court in his typical casual shirt and jeans dress and surrendered before the court. Why was he smiling, it was nothing to be proud of, arrested and jailed for a scam.
And finally both Bhanu Pratap Shahi and Pradeep Kumar gave up, their surrender brought to an end to the long-drawn manhunt of a former health-minister, a law-maker and a senior bureaucrat, a law-enforcer. The CBI Court of Special Judge N. N. Singh ordered Shahi’s arrest and sent him on a judicial custody; it also passed an order to attach the property of Shahi. Not surprisingly, in the court, Shahi complained of chest pain but the Court asked the Jail Authorities to facilitate his medical treatment.
But Shahi and Pradeep are not the only accused, it is alleged that as a Health Minister, he was at the helm of NRHM scam. Prior to Shahi’s arrest, the CBI had earlier arrested another former Jharkhand Health Secretary, a retired bureaucrat Siyaram Prasad Sinha in May 2011, besides then Director NRHM, Dr. Vijay Narain Singh and then State Drug Controller Madan Mohan and the several Private Companies which supplied the higher priced materials. The minister and the officials have been charged for misusing their official position, besides these persons fraudulently and dishonestly gave orders to purchase medicines, medical equipments, medical appliances and other items under the NRHM scheme.
The NRHM Scam surfaced during the President Rule in 2009, at that time, another former Health Secretary Shivendu found that the his department has purchased medicines and other commodities in 2008-2009 in contravention of the Central Government’s norms and also these items were purchased far in excess of the actual requirements. According to the Central Government Health Ministry’s Purchase Policy Guidelines, the State Governments are authorized to purchase medicines, medical equipments and other medical items or appliances for NRHM from the concerned PSUs (Government Owned Public Sector Units).
Based on the whistle-blower Shivendu’s report, the Governor K. Sankara Narayanan ordered a probe into the NRHM Scam, following which an FIR was registered against the accused. The FIR was registered on August 29, 2009 under Prevention of Corruption Act; on the State Government’s specific request and with the approval of the Central Government.
The FIR filed by CBI reported that during the tenure of Shahi, as many as 19 Private Suppliers were allowed to supply the medicines at exorbitant rates; as these suppliers had reportedly paid huge kickbacks to the Ministers and the Senior Officials of the Health Department. Seven of these — Satya Sai Agency, JR Pharma, Kalyan Enterprises, Medhavi Associate, Annu Enterprises, Savitri Sales, and Nand Kishore Fogla — were local companies with questionable backgrounds. The Riya Enterprises was given a Rs 70 lakh contract to provide furniture. The firm is owned by Shayamal Chakravorty, a known friend of Pradeep, and co-owned by his brother Rajendra. Chakravorty’s brother Arup alias Tillu and local builder Dharmendra Kumar Dheeraj, who was also close to Pradeep, were given job orders for construction works on the basis of nomination.
The purchase of the sub-standard medicines, low quality medical paraphernalia and miscellaneous works were done in complete disregard to the Government’s standard norms and procedures and this led to the huge loss to the public/state exchequers. The FIR mentioned the gross financial misappropriation scam that involved the Health Department of Jharkhand Government. “This is the first charge sheet and supplementary charge sheets will be filed in the near future,” a CBI official told press.
It was alleged that Pradeep, who was the health secretary at the time of scam, he did not float tenders for buying medicines and equipment. “Pradeep was involved in large-scale irregularities in connivance with the state RCH (Reproductive Child Health) director and two businessmen,” said a CBI officer. His name also figures in the list of those accused of committing irregularities during the appointment of around 125 doctors of indigenous medicine including Ayurveda, Yunani, Sidha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH). The CBI officials revealed the recovery list of Pradeep showed fixed deposits to the tune of Rs 1 crore, 3 flats in Delhi, one each in Ranchi and Rajasthan and a plot in the IAS Cooperative Society. Vijay Shankar Narain Singh, a state RCH Officer, also faces a probe for “criminal conspiracy” with Pradeep and three other people for making the purchases “without assessing the actual requirement and without observing the standard purchase procedures”, the statement said.
A senior CBI official said, “Both, Sahi and Pradeep, are charged with allotting tenders to their favourite companies who had quoted more than genuine rates for medicines and medical apparatus.” In the charge-sheet filed before the CBI court, it was alleged that their favourite companies supplied medicines and equipment worth Rs.48 crore in the Rupees 130 crore scam and the same companies paid substantial bribes to them. The Rs 48-crore requisition in question involved supplier Nand Kishore Fogla. Fogla, from which drugs worth Rs 48.56 crore were bought, was registered with Commercial Taxes Department only after it fetched the bid from the health department in 2008.
“Fogla bribed Rs.8.50 crore to the ex-health minister and two former health secretaries to overlook the market prices and norms of the tender,” the CBI official told the journalists. The actual worth of the materials supplied by Fogla for Rs.48.58 crore was just Rs.17.36 crore, the official said. Disposable syringes, whose market price is Rs.2.50 per unit, are said to have been sold for Rs.22 each. Fogla was given the contract to supply Microgen, a virucidial disinfectant, at the rate of Rs 2948 a litre even though Microgen Hygiene Private Ltd, the firm which makes the drug, had in its bid quoted a price of Rs 2,500 a litre. After it won the bid, Fogla bought the drug from Microgen and sold it to the department and made a lofty profit on each unit of drug sold.
In Jharkhand, like any other Government Scheme, NRHM provided another golden opportunity to the corrupt and greedy Politicians, the Babus and Businesspersons to siphon off the funds (tax-payers’ money) meant for the welfare of the common public, the Aam-Janta residing in rural areas; and their unholy nexus took criminal advantage of the same.
It truly is ironical, but not a new thing for Jharkhand state; here unholy nexus of Politicians-Bureaucrats-Businesspersons and others have indulged in unashamed corruption, in utter disregard to the law of our land. And mind you the list of corrupt Politicians, Bureaucrats and others do not end with these names mentioned herein.
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