Guwahati Police on Tuesday arrested Ranjit Gogoi, director, Information and Public Relations, in the Assam government in connection with a major scandal involving over Rs 34 crore that allegedly took place towards the end of the previous Congress regime headed by Tarun Gogoi.
IPR director Ranjit Gogoi was arrested by the Chief Minister’s Special Vigilance Cell on the basis of a complaint filed by senior BJP legislator Atul Bora, in which he had alleged that the IPR department had released a huge sum of money to some private firms to run a multi-media publicity campaign called “Vision Assam Mission Assam” to highlight the “success stories” of the previous government just ahead of the 2016 state assembly elections.
Director Gogoi has been accused, among other things, of executing the project “without express or implied approval” of the government, as also of arbitrarily modifying and manipulating the work schedules, with the enquiry report holding him “squarely responsible” for the irregularities, manipulations and “criminal waste” of public money. The enquiry report also put on record that Gogoi had in his statement maintained that he carried out verbal instructions of the then Commissioner & Secretary of the IPR department.
The enquiry conducted by Jyotirmoy Chakravarty, Additional DGP (CM’s SVC) had found that while the decision to launch a multi-media campaign called Vision Assam Mission (VAMA) was taken at the “highest level” of the government in the early part of 2015, the project was executed through the Directorate of IPR. The enquiry report had also put on record that there was “sheer waste of public money without achieving the desired objective.”
While there was no budget allocation for the project and it took several months to get funds through supplementary demand and re-appropriation, “subsequently immense pressure (was) built up to rush through the project before announcement of the Assembly elections,” the enquiry report said. The project was approved by the then chief minister (Tarun Gogoi) on March 25, 2015, the report said.
The enquiry report, a copy of which is available with The Indian Express, had on several pages clearly mentioned about funds released for the publicity campaign to highlight the achievements of the then Congress government was “wasted in a mindless manner.” While most of the printed material had remained undistributed, the government paid full amount for publicity with the publicity materials actually being available, the report had said. Referring to the speed in which funds were released by fulfilling all official formalities for the selected firms on February 29, 2016, the enquiry report had said, “All this indicates the existence of very strong influences and vested interests in releasing the payment to the firms.” IPR director Ranjit Gogoi has been also separately accused of allocating work worth over Rs 49.63 lakh to Nandita Creation, a firm which is owned by his wife Nandita Buragohain, during 2009-2010 and 2010-11, with the enquiry report pointing out that he had clearly violated Rule 19(3) of the Assam Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1965, and was thus liable for disciplinary action.
More arrests likely:
Going by the contents of the enquiry report (which is only Part 1 of the enquiry), more arrests are likely to take place in the days to come. The enquiry report had given a list of five officers including a senior IAS officer who were directly associated with the project, as also names of four firms which were allocated the work.
“All decisions are taken at senior level and officials at lower level had little role to play, except in assisting their senior. However, during investigation, custodial interrogation, and searches and seizures made, newer facts may come out and involvement of other persons at senior and junior level may be found,” the enquiry report had said.
Interestingly, while Jyotirmoy Chakravarty, the ADGP who had conducted the enquiry has recently gone on central deputation (and clarifying that his deputation had nothing to do with the enquiry), LS Changsan, a senior IAS officer of the principal secretary rank, who was commissioner and secretary of the IPR department during for the past two years or more and was named in the report, was last week has been removed from the department.
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