By P. Sreekumaran
The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front(LDF) Government came to power with a firm commitment to eradicate corruption from public life. As part of the anti-corruption campaign, it had also promised to strengthen the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau(VACB).
Two years into its rule, that promise has remained a mere promise. Bad enough. What is worse, the Government is now making efforts to weaken the Vigilance department, rendering it totally ineffective!
True, a new Director of Vigilance has been appointed. But the fact that this has been done only because of relentless pressure from political parties as well as the people at large takes the shine off the decision.
The Opposition parties had taken strong exception to State Police chief LoknathBehra’sholding the post of acting director of the Vigilance And Anti-Corruption Bureau(VACB) as well. This, they alleged, was not in consonance with his responsibilities as the police chief as the VACB frequently processes cases of police corruption. Moreover, the All India Service Rules barred a cadre officer from holding two posts permanently.
As if all this was not enough, the State Government had not sought the Centre’s permission, as is required under the law, before giving Behra additional charge of the VACB.
Significantly, the Kerala High Court had also come down heavily on the State Government for failing to appoint a full-fledged VACB Chief.
But the unkindest cut is the reported move being contemplated by the LDF Government to remove the post of Vigilance chief as the cadre post of Director General of Police(DGP), a move which has drawn heavy flak from IPS officers themselves. This is nothing but a reprehensible attempt to end all investigations into sensitive cases of political graft. It also remains to be seen whether the Centre would give the green signal for the State Government’s request in this regard.
The appointment of DGP N C Asthana, at present serving as officer on special duty at Kerala House in New Delhi, as the new Vigilance chief comes against the backdrop of reports that VACB is busy going slow on investigations into sensitive cases of political corruption.
Among the cases the investigation of which is being scuttled are the infamous bar bribery case involving former finance minister and Kerala Congress(M) chief K M Mani, the Pattoor land scam case and another case involving land grab in Kollam district. The case against Mani is being undermined, opposition parties allege, in view of the new-found bonhomie between the CPI(M) and the KC(M) and the latter’s eagerness to join the LDF, which is not to the liking of the CPI, the second largest constituent of the LDF.
The VACB’s go-slow on sensitive cases, allegedly under political pressure from the top, has not gone down well with the public at large. It has also angered the cadres of the CPI(M) and a section of the CPI(M) leaders themselves. The shocking volte-face on probes into corruption cases has given the government a bad name.
Whatever the outcome, the ‘emasculation’ of the Vigilance department has caused widespread revulsion and disbelief. The CPI has not come out openly against these moves so far. But the party is said to be unhappy about the efforts to sabotage probes into political corruption. The party believes that any such move would prove suicidal for the LDF, which rode to power mainly on the plank of its anti-corruption campaign.(IPA Service)