Updated: July 5, 2015 8:42:57 am
Five days before he died, 17-year-old Yallalinga Kuruba, a college student, told a local TV channel called Suvarna Siri that there was widespread corruption in the implementation of government projects in his impoverished village of Kanakapura, in Hullihyder gram panchayat of Koppal district in north Karnataka.
“This is the main road of our village,’’ he said, pointing to a mud path with sewage flowing through it. “It is about a kilometre long, and the entire stretch is in this condition. There is no drainage system in the village. The drains flow on the road. We struggle on these roads every day. No form of development touches our village,’’ he told the channel.
The first year pre-degree student of Krantiveera Sangolli Rayana College in Gadag town, about 100 km from Kanakapura, later called up panchayat development officer (PDO) and public information officer (PIO) Ramu Nayak and sought information on filing an RTI on the contracts awarded for development work in his village under various public schemes like NREGA, the names of the contractors and the status of work.
On January 10, Yallalinga is reported to have filed an RTI application. The next day, he was killed.
His body was found on a railway track on the outskirts of Koppal town, about 50 kms from his village. For three months, his death was passed off as a case of suicide, until his widowed mother, Kenchamma, approached the Koppal Superintendent of Police K Raja.
An FIR was registered on April 10. Investigations led the police to Koppal District Congress leader Hanumesh Nayak, whose family is involved in government projects in Kanakapura.
According to the police, on the morning of January 11, Yallalinga noticed that four persons from Hulihyder were following the bus he was travelling in. He called up at least 20 people, including local reporters, policemen, politicians and his friends. He used his cellphone to click pictures of the suspects, following a suggestion by a local channel reporter. He also wrote a hurried letter alleging that Nayak and gram panchayat member Balan Gowda should be held responsible if anything untoward were to happen to him.
Over the last fortnight, the police have arrested Nayak, his son Mahantesh Nayak, and their associates Parashuram, Manoj, Durugappa, Kunta Basappa and Balan Gowda.
Curiously, however, investigators are yet to find the RTI application that Yallalinga is reported to have filed, despite a CID raid on Nayak’s residence and the Hullihyder panchayat office. Nayak admitted that Yallalinga had called him up to ask about implementation of projects in his village, but said no RTI plea was filed. “I am sure I got a call from Yallalinga because I heard the news of the death within days of the call. He asked me details of all the gram panchayat projects in general. He did not mention any particular project,” said Nayak.
Police sources, however, claimed that Yallalinga personally met Nayak and sought details of the projects, but the PDO rebuffed him and said the information could be given only to an SC/ ST person. Yallalinga then reportedly got a Dalit friend, Pampapati, and filed an RTI plea at the panchayat. The panchayat, however, did not acknowledge receipt of the petition, said sources.
“The CID questioned me for two days and searched my office and residence for the application. I didn’t receive any RTI application from Yallalinga or his friend. I asked Yallalinga to meet me at my office when he sought details about projects over the phone. He said he would come to my office, but he never came because he died before that,” said Nayak.
The CID has now issued a notice to Nayak, seeking details related to implementation of NREGA and other schemes in the gram panchayat. “Provide details of all RTI applications received in the year 2015 and replies provided to them. Provide details of grants released under various schemes in the years 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 and the expenditure in the Kanakapura village. Provide details of the president, members and contractors of the GP and whether Hanumesh Nayak’s brother Narasimha Nayak and son Mahantesha Nayak are licensed contractors,” the CID said in its notice to the PDO.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Koppal Zilla Panchayat, Krishna Udapudi, alleged irregularities in the implementation of schemes in the Hullihyder gram panchayat. “We are analysing reports to initiate action against officials for irregularities in the GP,” he said.
“Attacking people is not new for Nayak’s family. They have done it to many people and have instilled fear in the people of here,” said Mudiyappa, Yallalinga’s uncle. Nayak is reported to be a close associate of Shivaraj Tangadagi, local MLA and Minor Irrigation Minister in the Congress government in Karnataka.
“My husband died seven years ago. We are a poor family. Yallalinga was our hope. He told us not to worry about debts and he assured us that he would get a good job after completing his education. He was a bright student,” said Yellalinga’s mother Kenchamma.
Koppal SP Raja said there are over 25 cases against Nayak, who is listed as a rowdy at the Kanakagiri police station. His brothers are also involved in many cases, he said.
The issue has taken a political turn with the opposition BJP accusing Tangadagi of protecting Nayak and his family. “I am surprised the opposition has dragged my name into the issue. The CID probe will bring out the truth,” retorted Tangadagi.
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