It has become quite common to hear the Bihari babu’s name in the headlines adjoined with some scam. Recently we came to hear that Bihar’s ex-chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav was convicted another time to spend about three and a half years in jail. Following the ruling given by the special CBI court, Yadav will also have to pay a fine of about 10 lakhs. The whole issue is related to a fodder scam that managed to have passed on since 1970s.
If we look back in time, Bihar became infamous for this scam way back when Jagannath Mishra was serving as the state supremo in mid-1970s. It began with a handful of government officials showing false expense documents. Soon, it became a full-fledged mafia raj. Convictions of those involved received multiple setbacks. The realisation that something fishy was going on came to view in 1985 when a delayed submission of fodder reports aroused suspicion in the mind of the then Auditor General and Comptroller T.N. Chaturvedi. Number of government officials including police officers tried to lodge complaints regarding the scam but they were either ignored or resulted in the transfer of the officials. It was well-fed and well-maintained that functioned like an open secret.
Nobody could do anything until a public interest litigation (PIL) was filled in the supreme court. The CBI began its investigations and filed a complaint in the High Court saying that they were being prevented to access some documents that could prove that there was a well-entrenched embezzlement going on for a long time. Finally the people responsible came under the radar one by one. Turns out, a nexus had been created comprising some of the most high-profile politicians, business houses and government officials of both high and low ranks.
It was not easy for the CBI to make the High Court take action against the alleged people which included the then ornamented Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav . Prosecution of Laloo turned out to be one of the biggest challenges for CBI. An accused official was soon found dead on the tracks with a note by his side, claiming that the CBI was falsely incriminating him. Although these charges were rejected by the CBI, its then Head U.N. Biswas kept the appeal to the governor firm that further investigations on Laloo needs to be made.
An investigation of the Income Tax department further pointed out the association of Laloo Prasad with the scam. Over time, the CBI unearthed more and more information regarding the whole scam. Laloo realised that his support from the Janata Dal was dwindling so he moved out and formed his own Rashtriya Janata Dal. He won the vote of confidence in the state assembly. But he could not continue his chief-ministership for long. After getting down from the position, he managed to install his wife Rabri Devi as the new CM. One way or another, his influence was significant and the hurdles kept on mounting against the investigations of the CBI.
Finally, as of May 2013, the trial completed 44 out of 53 cases and more than 500 people have been prosecuted. This scam brought into focus how deep the inroads are built by the mafia raj in India. The fodder scam has symbolised bureaucratic corruption and the criminalisation of politics in India generally, and particularly in Bihar. Both the state and its governmental functioning have come under intense scrutiny as well as have become a topic of mockery.