By Sanskriti Pandey:
“Give me three (thousand) more.”
“Leave me, Sir!” *laughs*
“You’ll have to give it na, listen to me. Because I have to give it to Limbu and others, including those who take 5%.”
Limbu is a Subedar, Engineer JCO in the Assam Rifles. He is but a minute strand in the cobweb of open daylight corruption that’s been thriving, for years now within the Indian paramilitary force. A very structured and organised tender-and-money racket has found itself internally legalised within the Assam Rifles – so much so that the seemingly insignificant clerk partakes in illicit transactions even as the top-man gets his share.
Last week, Tehelka published a sting operation it conducted on the beneficiaries of the racket. What this has done is not just reveal some really shocking figures, but also an entire institutionalised framework that has shaken up some major dirt within the Indian Paramilitary Forces.
The What And The How
The paramilitary forces of India are involved in counter-insurgency and border security functions, as well as construction projects. These construction projects are initiated through tenders. The acquiring of a tender itself is a bribe-lathered first step – for if 30 per cent of the proposed amount is not adequately distributed within the network of officers, the project will not take off at all. This 30-35 per cent is the catalyst to the systematised bribe network.
The Government of India allocates a certain amount of money from its budget to the security forces every year. This year, it was Rs. 3,580 crore. That, well, is a huge amount, especially upon consideration of the fact that a percentage of it is categorically siphoned off to plonk into the pockets of a few. In fact, under the pretext and context of Indian administration.
From clerks, Subedars and Chief Engineers, to Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels, the ADG, and the DG – slurping off money was being done directly by some, and some transactions were carried out indirectly through subordinates. The video shows 13 such officials openly in dialogue and handling money. The astonishing bits are ones that capture exuding confidence and business-like approach to money transactions. Good news over money received being shared over the phone, uniformed officers behind the desk joking away, unnecessary projects being sanctioned – the Assam Rifles have been caught red-handed in an advanced stage of self-sustaining activity that has resulted in accumulation of humongous amounts of wealth in individual accounts. This is happening in a volatile and turbulent region where jawans are battling rebel forces.
So, here are the numbers circulating within the agency, simplified.
– 543 contractors divided into 5 classes, money-wise: Special, A, B, C, and D.
– First, 5% -10% goes to the Assam Rifles sector, to which work has been given.
– Second, 5% to the Director General Resettlement (DGR).
– The bill is run through a unit, which then gets a 5%.
– The bill returns. 5% to officials. And another 5% to the DGR.
– Value Added Tax is another 7%.
– And finally, 1 % to the Accounts Department, which churned out the money in the first place.
How Operation Hilltop Came About
Former Jawan and C-level contractor with the Assam Rifles, CC Mathew, had had enough. He approached Tehelka with a mind to uncover the illicit tender-related activities budding within the institution. Tehelka then followed a senior contractor as he went about his “job”. Beginning at the clerical level, the investigation gradually went up the administerial ladder to reach the top. And true enough, no stones were left unturned to ensure that even a 1% bribe shareholder (of the 30% whisked off illegally) gets his maal off illegal projects.
As the magazine pointed out, what this entire affair does is not only to unveil a very slick, smooth-operating system of corruption for wealth, but also illuminates the non-functioning of the Indian Intelligence as well as Vigilance forces. As of this Sunday the 26th, the Assam Rifles has declared that it has ordered an inquiry into the matter. As consumers of news, we may guess the number of so-called inquiries that do bear fruit. Meanwhile, we wait to see if this will be yet another revelation that will drown in a sea of corrupt spells that our country seems to be unable to shake off.