Lalu and family thrust into fresh imbroglio
By Venkatesh Raghavan
New Delhi: The ongoing interrogation of Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family in connection with the land for jobs scam witnessed the two second-generation siblings of the Yadav clan, namely Tejashwi, Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, and his sister Misa Bharati, a Rajya Sabha member from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
The Central Bureau of Investigation attributed the fresh round of questioning of Lalu Yadav’s family members owing to having gathered more information while extending their probe. The nodal agency informed the court that in wake of fresh facts that have been unearthed, they need to probe and question the accused persons further.
In a nutshell, the land for jobs scam is an allegation that Lalu Prasad Yadav during his tenure as Railway Minister of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from 2004 to 2009 had appointed persons in Category ‘D’ of the Railways across zones in India in exchange for gift or sale of land at heavily discounted prices to his family members.
Tejashwi attended his summons after skipping three dates, stating that the Assembly was in session in Bihar and so he could only attend on Saturdays when the assembly does not function. Tejashwi’s counsel sought that he be given time till April 5, 2023, when the assembly session in the state will conclude. The court consented that Tejashwi will not be arrested anytime till the current month ends.
Responding to journalist queries while coming out of the premises, Tejashwi maintained that there was no power that rested with any railway minister to decide on appointments be it ‘D’ category or even otherwise.
After being in brief hibernation, Lalu Yadav and his family again have their backs to the wall. While Lalu Yadav is still under a cloud after being convicted by a special court on the fodder scam and came out on bail, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) slapped yet another scam relating to what allegedly transpired during Lalu’s tenure as Railway minister in the UPA government between 2004 and 2009. During the peak of the 2022 summer, in May, the CBI alleged that Lalu Prasad Yadav in his capacity as Railway minister was embroiled in a scam which got dubbed as “land for jobs.”
The details given by the nodal agency’s prosecution arm in the Special Court mention that jobs in the ‘D’ category of railway employees were allotted to candidates in exchange for plots of land that were given either free or at a throwaway price. The candidate’s family or relatives used to grant the land deeds either as gifts or at ridiculously low prices.
Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family members including the current deputy chief minister of Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav termed the recent ED raids as a vindictive act on part of the Centre owing to Nitish Kumar ditching his alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and forming a fresh alliance with Lalu Yadav’s RJD. However, it would be pertinent to note that the CBI investigation against jobs for land deals commenced in May 2022, whereas Nitish Kumar separating from the BJP took place only in the second week of August 2022.
It was alleged that those who were granted jobs in Category ‘D’ of railway employment across railway zones in India used to get regularized after the transfer of property processing formalities got completed. The transfer deeds in most instances were in the name of Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi or his daughters, the CBI alleged. Lalu Yadav’s Officer on Special Duty (OSD), Bhola Yadav during the period from 2005-09 was also arrested in July 2022 in connection with the land for a job scam. The CBI had alleged that Bhola Yadav was a witness to the execution of various transfer deeds pertaining to the case.
Finally, the charge sheet in the land for jobs case was filed by the CBI on October 22, 2022. The charge sheet named 16 accused persons including Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi, daughter Misa Bharti, two former railway officials and seven candidates who willingly lent their land in exchange for securing jobs. The charge sheet also mentioned that the land was either gifted or sold to a private firm that was controlled by Lalu Yadav’s family members.
Soon after Lalu Yadav and his wife Rabri were questioned by CBI in the land for jobs case, the Enforcement Directorate jumped into the fray in the second week of March, conducting raids on 24 premises associated with Lalu Yadav and his family members located nationwide. The ED search is claimed to have so far yielded Rs 1 crore in unaccounted cash and detected upward of Rs 600 crores that accrued in proceeds of the crime. The family’s investments in real estate and other sectors are also being put under scrutiny, the ED officers said. The subsequent seizures included cash both in Indian and foreign currency, gold jewellery, and gold bullion.
The latest was Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi dubbing the ED’s claims of seizures as a bunch of lies that are scripted to suit the ruling BJP dispensation at the Centre. He challenged the panchanama being performed to be made public.
– global bihari bureau