Once there was a scam...
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Lalu Prasad Yadav has since moved on to the Centre, reinventing himself as one of the Congress's most-trusted allies and as the man who hopes to turn around the Indian Railways. Rabri Devi is out of the Chief Minister's office, and largely out of the national mindscape. However, 12 years after the Rs 950-crore fodder scam, or chara gotala, forced Lalu out of office and saw the unique arrangement that saw Rabri in his place, the case drags on.
The conviction of Jharkhand Transport Secretary Sajal Chakraborty on Monday, the first ever of a serving IAS officer in the scam, may well have boosted the CBI, but it will be some time before the sundry main and offshoot cases are disposed of.
The CBI registered 63 cases in the scam, under IPC Sections 420 (forgery) and 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) and Section 13 (b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Of these, 47 are being dealt with by Jharkhand courts, and judgment has been delivered in just 27. So far, 274 people have been convicted. On Monday, Chakraborty was among 64 convicted.
Ironically, the multi-million scam surfaced in 1996 when Lalu as the then chief minister of Bihar constituted a probe into massive irregularities in accounts of government, especially the Animal Husbandry Department. Matters however went out of Lalu's hand as a PIL was soon filed questioning the motives behind huge fraudulent withdrawals from the government exchequer. The Supreme Court later handed over the case to the CBI.
Soon too many skeletons were tumbling out of the closet as it was realised that the fraud in the Animal Husbandry Department — under which money for agricultural support programmes was stolen — went back 20 years. Former chief minister Jagannath Mishra found himself in the dock, as did many of those who were part of the probe committee. Finally the net reached as high up as Lalu.