The slogan health is wealth has come to acquire a different connotation in Madhya Pradesh,a state ranked as one of the worst performers on indexes such as malnutrition,and infant and maternal mortalities. Raids by the Income Tax department and states anti-corruption watchdog,the Lokayukta Organisation,on the premises of health department officials have led to the recovery of so much cash,valuables and details of investments that theres little doubt where the money is going.
Theres only a marginal improvement in the health services,but health department officers have lined up their pockets at a phenomenal rate over the years. The state continues to get huge funds from the Centre,making the health department one of the most sought after postings,given that theres enough scope to manipulate figures in the absence of any field monitoring.
When I-T sleuths raided the palatial bungalow of the Director of Public Health and Family Welfare,Dr Yogiraj Sharma,in Shaktinagar locality of Bhopal in 2007,they found cash stashed in beds and cupboards besides a large number of gold jewellery and silver articles. But more than the cash it was the details of his properties,investments and bank accounts that left the I-T sleuths wide-eyed. It took them more than two years to make some sense of the trail of investments made by the 55-year-old in his own name as well as in the names of his relatives and associates. As many as 85 bank accounts in the name of Dr Yogiraj Sharma and his family members were found with a total deposit of Rs 30 crore. The department is still examining the accounts and the transactions of 27 credit and other cards issued by banks.
It proved beyond doubt that government funds have been siphoned off into the companies of Gaurav Sharma and Shashi Sharma,son and wife,respectively of Dr Yogiraj Sharma, said a report compiled by the IT department. The I-T sleuths found papers containing names of medicines and medical equipment suppliers and the commission taken by Sharma. His relatives,who did not file their I-T returns,were fobbed of as owners of some of these companies that reported transactions running into crores.
Sharma once drew his power from flaunting his proximity to former chief minister and Congress leader Digvijay Singh at whose ancestral property,his (Sharmas) father was employed as a priest. He was attached to the department and posted in Bhopal for a long time,a proof of his strong political links that did not break even after the Congress lost power to the BJP in 2003.
Sources in the department told The Indian Express that Dr Yogiraj Sharma had started dictating terms to his seniors,who,too,fell in line,all because of his political connection.
Barring a brief period when the then chief minister Uma Bharti sent him to Gwalior,Sharma returned and occupied the directors post that allowed him to control funds and channel them at will.
The government later suspended Sharma and handed him a compulsory retirement order,but he challenged it successfully on technical grounds. The Madhya Pradesh High Court asked the government to reinstate him,leading …continued »