Lalu Prasad got off easy in Rs 900-crore fodder scam case, feels Jharkhand whistleblower minister Saryu Roy

Saryu Roy, currently a senior minister in Jharkhand government, was one of the key whistleblowers in the Rs 900 crore fodder scam case. Roy had brought charges of corruption against Lalu Prasad Yadav and others, along with Shivanand Tiwari on 11 October, 1994.

Twenty three years later, his efforts reached a logical conclusion when a CBI court on 6 January sentenced the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief three-and-a-half years in jail and imposed Rs five lakh fine in the case relating to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from Deoghar Treasury.

It first came to limelight in 1985 when the then CAG TN Chaturvedi noticed that monthly accounts submission from Bihar treasury were always delayed. However, over the years, small-scale falsified transactions got snowballed into a Rs 900-crore scam, exposing a series of large-scale corruptions and embezzlement of government funds in Bihar government's Animal Husbandry department.

A file image of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. PTI

A file image of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. PTI

"It was a long fight for us as we decided to fully expose Lalu Prasad and his corrupt government. Between 1985 and 1990, a few lakh rupees were fraudulently withdrawn from government treasuries. But, after 1990, there was an exponential growth in corruption in the animal husbandry department and it turned into a multi-crore scam," Roy, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Food and Supply Department in Jharkhand government, who was the then general secretary of Bihar state BJP told Firstpost in an interview.

Roy had also exposed the corruption in the Iron Ore Mines allotment scam under the then Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

What do you make of the quantum of sentence awarded to Lalu Prasad?

Given the enormity of the corruption, it's moderate. But, hearings are still pending in a few other cases.

After the sentencing, a few leaders of the RJD and its ally Sharad Yadav said that this move would strengthen the party and Lalu would emerge stronger…

These are for public consumption. Those found guilty in the case have been punished by the court. The seniority of Lalu Prasad as a leader of RJD and the support base he enjoys do not come in the way of law. When they file bail petition in the higher court, Lalu’s mass support, which he claims, won't help.

Take the case of 1997, when corruption allegations against Lalu was strong and revolt took place within the Janata Dal. He broke away and formed his own party — RJD. During 2000 Bihar Assembly election, RJD's seats declined and Lalu was in opposition.

In 2015, he was back to power after a decade, but only after allying with Nitish Kumar's JD(U). Nitish dumped RJD from power in July 2017 after the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI filed cases against Lalu's son Tejashwi Yadav. In between, Lalu had been in jail. If going to jail makes Lalu stronger, his support base wouldn't have declined.

Could you elaborate on how you led the crusade against this scam?

Between 1985 and 1990, a few lakh rupees were fraudulently withdrawn from government treasuries. But, after 1990, there was an exponential growth in corruption in the animal husbandry department and it turned into a multi-crore scam. It was on 11 October 1994 that I brought charges against Lalu and his government. We filed a PIL at the Patna High Court in which Shivanand Tiwari was the co-petitioner and Ravi Shankar Prasad, who's now a Union Minister, was our lawyer.

The Bihar government didn’t give its accounts details to CAG for 1991-92, 1992-93 and 1993-94. As a result, in 1995, the CAG came up with a comprehensive report of three years, which exposed corruption and a systematic failure in the government.

After that on 27 January 1996, the deputy commissioner of West Singhbhum district, Amit Khare had conducted a raid on the offices of the animal husbandry department in Chaibasa. The documents his team seized conclusively indicated large-scale embezzlement by an organised mafia of officials and business people.

How was Lalu as the then chief minister responsible for the scam?

A chief minister doesn’t do anything by himself per se, except signing documents, but one can't be absolved from ones responsibility and accountability. When the scam came to his knowledge for the first time, Lalu should have stopped it, instead he let the case grow exponentially taking the shape of one of the biggest scams in our country. In such cases, it can’t be said that the chief minister wasn’t involved. There are charges of conspiracy against him.

Corruption allegations have surfaced even in the current Jharkhand . What's your take?

When one is in power, he or she can provide a cover up to corruption or a scam, but once he’s out of power, scam is bound to get exposed. Even, in my government I raised such issues and warned. I strongly feel that the rule of law must prevail.

Updated Date: Jan 09, 2018 10:09 AM

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