Kamal Nath, Congress Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, constituted his cabinet on December 25. Ten days later, new Food Minister Pradyuman Singh Tomar inspected a Public Distribution System (PDS) shop in Bhopal city and found mud and stones in wheat and rice, in addition to detecting other irregularities. The PDS scam had grown into gigantic proportions in the BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan with his blessing. It was by accident, or call it by a little carelessness of his officers, that the enormity of the scam had come to light.
Bhopal witnessed heavy rains in July 2016 when it rained cats and dogs without a glimpse of sun for days together. The low-lying colonies were flooded, houses collapsed, people died and thousands had to be evacuated to hastily put up camps. It was then revealed – once again – that these colonies had been allowed to be built on sewage drains and there was no outlet for the rain water to flow out.
But the flood-victims, belonging mostly to the lower strata of society, had to be fed. Chouhan directed the Civil Supplies Department to disburse grains among them and the Department promptly sent some bags of wheat to these people. In the hurry they sent them the wrong bags which were not meant to be opened in cities but in remote villages. Because, when the people opened the bags they found a substantial quantity of mud cakes and stones along with the wheat. They cried foul inviting the media persons and activists. Mud cakes and stones were separated in presence of the media and activists and weighed. In a 50-kg bag, mud cakes and stones weighed 15 to 20 kgs.
This accidental exposure led to the revelation that mud cakes and stones were mixed in certain number of wheat bags at warehouses where the grain is kept. These ‘mixed’ bags were meant to be sent to remote areas to be distributed through fair price shops in villages. As the individual consumer got a certain quantity of wheat at a time, all that he complained of was that the wheat was dirty or had some mud and stones in it but he never came to know of the actual quantity of the adulteration. Sometimes some people did create ruckus but they were taken care of by the police or the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the area. The reason was simple: Chouhan’s most trusted officers were put at the helm of affairs in both the departments; Civil Supplies and Warehousing Corporation. Some close relatives of Chouhan were said to be having interest in the working of the two departments.
Chouhan’s criminal intent
What the Congress and other opposition parties could not do was done by a member of Chouhan’s cabinet to make the Chief Minister and his RSS mentor (late) Anil Madhav Dave aware of their criminal intent in trying to rob the poor of their land fraudulently. Minister of Food and Civil Supplies Akhand Pratap Singh vehemently opposed at a cabinet meeting the proposal to allot 13.766 hectares of land in the Chief Minister’s Budhni Assembly constituency by overruling the objections of the revenue and finance departments to Narmada Samagra Trust floated by Anil Madhav Dave. The land near Uma Bharti’s favourite Bandrabhan Ashram was the pastureland belonging to the poor people of Ramnagar village on the bank of river Narmada.
Under the rules, this land could not be converted into the land for construction of houses. Dave’s Trust was to be allotted the land at throwaway prices. The Chief Minister’s criminal intent became clear in giving the khasra number of some other land in the newspaper advertisements inviting objections. Narmada Samagra Trust was registered with the Registrar of Public Trusts only a few months earlier, its movable property amounting to only Rs 11,000 and no immovable property. Anil Madhav Dave, as secretary, was the only person authorised in the Trust deed to enter into legal proceedings. The required application fee was not deposited while applying for allotment of land to the Trust. The move to allot land to Dave’s Trust was dropped after the fraud was exposed by Akhand Pratap Singh.
Murder of IPS officer
Chouhan and his wife Sadhna Singh were celebrating Holi at the Chief Minister’s sprawling residence in Bhopal when the news of IPS officer Narendra Kumar Singh’s murder by the mining mafia at Morena was conveyed to them. If they were affected, they did not show it and the revelry continued unabated with full gusto. Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) of Chambal range D P Gupta had told media persons after the incident that Singh had tried to stop a tractor carrying illegally mined stones but the driver ran over him. “We won’t call it an accident. Even after he was stopped, the driver crushed the officer with his tractor. It’s a clear case of murder. The tractor driver (identified as Manoj Gurjar) has been arrested and a case (under Section 302 IPC) has been registered against him and we are trying to ascertain whom he was working with”, the DIG was quoted as having stated.
Home Minister Uma Shankar Gupta and Director General of Police (DGP) Nandan Dubey rushed to Gwalior on the way to Morena and with that the murder became accident. The police also spread the word that no mining mafia was behind the incident, that the driver was carrying the stones to his village for his own use and that he had become nervous on seeing the police officer and lost control of the vehicle resulting in the “accident”.
IPS officer’s wife Madhurani Tewatia, an IAS officer posted in Gwalior (who later got herself transferred to UP cadre), said: “One day you say it is a murder and the other day you say it is not – this is not acceptable… If someone has done something good for the country, you can’t just get hold of the driver and feel that it is enough. You need to start from the roots to eradicate this mafiasm.” Madhurani Tewatia asked if a poor driver dare trample an IPS officer, or even a constable, under the wheels of his vehicle unless he was assured of full protection – legal, monetary and otherwise – by those in control of the illegal operations?
Constable Dharmendra Singh Chauhan, an ex-army man, was posted at the Noorabad police station in Morena district. One night he was part of a patrolling party when they saw sand-laden truck parked under suspicious circumstances. As the police party challenged the vehicle, its driver started the engine and tried to flee the scene. Chauhan ran forward to stop the truck. He had almost reached the engine when the driver abruptly turned the truck trampling the constable under its wheels. The driver ran away from the scene. Chauhan’s colleagues in the patrolling party took their own time to reach the scene of the ghastly murder.
Note: Illegal mining in Madhya Pradesh was directly supervised by Chouhan’s wife Sadhna Singh through a promotee IAS officer with a dubious record S K Mishra.
A blast in a store in the small town of Petlawad in Jhabua district killed 90 persons and injured over 100 others. The law does not permit storage of explosives in a residential area but here the explosives were kept in a house at the centre of Petlawad town. Moreover, the owner of the explosives store Rajendra Kasawa did not even have a licence to store or sell the explosives. The licence for explosives is issued by the Petroleum and Safety Organisation (PESO). Deputy Chief Controller of PESO M K Jhala, based in Bhopal, said a day after the blast that no licence had been issued in the name of Rajendra Kasawa. Jhala said: ‘it is a serious matter. I have checked records and no licences were issued from our side. Our officials will be visiting Petlawad and submit a report’, he added. The residents of Petlawad had been complaining to the district administration about the storage of the explosives in the residential areas but the district administration always ignored the complaints. Chouhan’s close associates were said to be the beneficiaries of the racket.