Friday, April 13, 2012

TK 70 LAKH SCANDAL : Suranjit comes under fire

Railway Minister Suranjit Sengupta received heavy condemnation from various quarters over the seizure of Tk 70 lakh from his assistant personal secretary’s car Monday night and the casual manner of his handling of the matter afterwards.

The parliamentary body on railway ministry and officials of railway and other ministries alleged that Suranjit took the matter very lightly. They questioned how neutral the two probe committees, formed by the minister, would be when an officer of the same ministry is to investigate his subordinates.

Even the Anti-Corruption Commission joined the crowd on Wednesday. The graft watchdog said it would launch a probe into the minister’s alleged involvement in the incident, reported Channel i, a private TV channel.

The opposition BNP demanded the minister’s resignation while the parliamentary body launched a probe into the ministry’s handling of tenders over the last three years.

However, the money found in the car is believed to be bribes from railway job seekers.

Suranjit’s APS Omar Faruq Talukder, Railway’s General Manager (East) Yusuf Ali Mridha and Divisional Commandant Enamul Huq were in the car. Driver Ali Azam was driving the vehicle, stopped on the way to Suranjit’s Jogatola house, and entered into the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) headquarters at Dhanmondi in the capital around 11:30pm Monday. Ali Azam drove the vehicle into the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) headquarters in the capital and exposed the bribe money. The border guards discovered the money in the car and detained the four.

When guards at the gate rushed towards the vehicle as it had entered the BGB headquarters without authorisation, the driver told them there was bribe money stashed in the car. The guards discovered Tk 70 lakh in the car and they detained the four.

One Bangla daily has reported that Omar Faruq Talukder has amassed enormous wealth in three years.

Charge of corruption
 At the very maiden meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Railway Ministry, Minister Suranjit Sengupta faced the charge of corruption from the opposition BNP.

Rehana Akter Ranu, the lone opposition member on the committee, rejected the ministry’s probe body formed to investigate the alleged capture of Omar Faruk Talukder, assistant personal secretary (APS) of Suranjit, with Tk 70 lakh. She told reporters that Omar earned the money from the ‘recruitment trade’ and the sum was supposed to go to the minister.

Railway Minister inspires seven cartoonists
Thursday was in no way designated for any local, national or international event relating to satirical cartoon.
But in a unique coincidence in Bangladesh media, seven leading  national dailies on April 13 preferred to publish front page cartoons on Railway Minister Suranjit Sen Gupta along side reports, editorials and commentaries about the recovery of huge corruption money from the car of Sen Gupta’s APS.

The veteran politician who was made Railway Minister a few months ago, received a volley of criticism calling for a resignation from various quarters following the seizure of Tk 70 lakh ( about 90,000 US dollars) from the car of his APS around 11:30pm Monday and Suranjit’s handling of the matter afterwards.

The BGB personnel sought police help but police refused to take the responsibility, saying there was no case filed against them. Faruq, Yusuf and Enamul were eventually released but the driver is said to be still in BGB custody.

Meanwhile, the opposition BNP demanded the minister’s resignation, while the parliamentary standing committee launched a probe into the ministry’s handling of tenders over the last three years.

ACC to probe
As the critical public reactions spread quickly against the minister, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) announced on Tuesday that it would launch a probe into the minister’s alleged involvement in the incident.
Highly embarrassed by the incident, the ruling party leaders are now waiting for the prime minister to return from Turkey and tell them what to do about the scandal.

Suranjit, clearly on the back foot, termed the incident unwarranted adding, “In a country like ours, this kind of incidents has happened before. This incident has created problems for me. I will face it.”

Bribes from job seekers
Sources in the railway said ruling party people in the leadership of railway employees, ministers, lawmakers, and a section of corrupt railway officials were taking bribes from job seekers. The railway ministry recently started recruitment of 7,500 people.

According, railway officials Tk 2 lakh to 5 lakh was taken from each jobseeker assuring job in railway.

Judicial probe demanded
Opposition member of the parliament (MP) Rehana Akhter Ranu, who is also a member of the parliamentary standing committee on railway Minister, demanded that the government constitute a judicial probe body to investigate the source and destination of the money found in APS possession. She said Suranjit must resign for the sake of an impartial investigation.

 “We believe the minister’s APS and a general manager of railway were taking the money to him [Suranjit], which was bribe in exchange for jobs in the ministry.” Rehana Akhter MP said,

Awami League Deputy Office Secretary Mrinal Kanti Das, however, said there might be a conspiracy behind the incident. It could have been staged to disgrace the government.

But newspaper readers’ comments and public reactions suggest that Suranjit Sengupta should take full responsibility of the incident and resign when someone so close to him and a high-ranking railway officer are involved in such a huge bribery scam.

“Even a grade three student would realise and understand that you cannot investigate against yourself. Sengupta must resign and independent and credible investigation must be conducted. If we fail to set 

standards here we have very little chance to get out of the stigma of being the number one corrupt nation,” commented an online reader.

BY :   Abdur Rahman Kha.