Bhopal: "MP gajab hai`...You`ve heard that touristy catchphrase saying Madhya Pradesh is truly amazing! But the slogan acquires a new meaning in the light of startling revelations about corrupt government staffers who are turning out to have amassed unaccounted wealth worth crores of rupees.
In 2011, the state anti-corruption wing unearthed assets running into crores from many government employees, from peons to clerks to engineers. The assets include cash, jewellery, land, farmhouses, luxury cars and others.
This included the recovery of Rs.12 crore from a peon in the Ujjain Municipal Corporation and Rs.30 crore from a clerk in the Road Transport Office (RTO), Indore. The raids continue this year as well, with the first two weeks of 2012 netting seven officials worth many millions.
However, activists like Ajay Dubey, a member of Transparency International, say agencies have yet to act against higher officials and ministers who have cases pending before the Lokayukta and the Economic Offences Wing (EOW).
"As of now, raids are being conducted only against the small fish and the big ones are going free. Here, IAS officials are holding private dinner parties on public money and there are corruption charges against cabinet ministers, but no action is being taken," Dubey said.
According to Madhya Pradesh Lokyukta office records, the department had unearthed assets worth some Rs.100 crore from 63 officials in the last two years.
Not only that. Only a fraction of these officials have been suspended - most continue to hold their posts while their respective departments are conducting inquiries.
In 2010, the Lokayukta had raided 25 officials` premises and recovered illegal property worth Rs.24 crore, while in 2011, it snooped down on the premises of 38 officials and unearthed assets amounting to around Rs.75 crore.
The trend first hit the headlines in February 2010 when the premises of high-profile Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers Arvind and Tinu Joshi here were raided. The couple were found with Rs.3 crore in cash and owning assets worth around Rs.300 crore.
"IAS couple Tinu and Arvind Joshi were blue-eyed officials of the Madhya Pradesh government and one can estimate the level of corruption in the state if this is the case with these two officials. The anti-corruption wing got many complaints and had to act as corruption has spread everywhere, from top to bottom," economic analyst Rajendra Kothari said.
Dubey said: "Except Arvind and Tinu Joshi, no raid was conducted on higher officials. The reality is harsher than what is surfacing now."
Not surprisingly, the matter has taken political overtones.
"The `swarnim` (golden) Madhya Pradesh of (Chief Minister) Shivraj Singh Chouhan is actually the most corrupt state in country," said BK Hariprasad, Congress general secretary in charge of Madhya Pradesh affairs.
However, Home Minister Uma Shankar Gupta defends the Lokayukta and EOW for not netting the big fish.
"Such agencies can act only on concrete information, and it has nothing to do with positions. The raids are proof that the state is tough in dealing with corrupt officials," said Gupta.