Dehradun: The security breach at Mussoorie’s prestigious IAS Academy, an alleged scam in relief distribution and a sting operation purportedly showing a CMO official negotiating a bribery deal for liquor licences were some of the highlights of 2015 in Uttarakhand.
People of the state watched in disbelief as the news about a woman named Ruby Chaudhry hoodwinking the authorities at Lal Bahadur Shastri Administrative Academy to stay there illegally for six months began doing the rounds on TV channels pointing to the loopholes in the security apparatus at one of the most prestigious academies in the state which according to intelligence agencies is also among top terror targets.
The civil service recruits training academy learnt about the woman and her prolonged stay at the institute when she had already left on March 27.
Chaudhry, who hailed from Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, was arrested a few days later and told her interrogators that she stayed at the institute with the help of its Deputy Director Saurabh Jain, a senior IAS officer in return for money, a charge denied by the officer.
An SIT was constituted to probe the matter but nothing significant came out of it.Chaudhry was later released.
The otherwise even tenor of the hill state’s political life was disturbed just about a month later when an information commissioner’s response to an RTI query blew the lid off a major scam in distribution of relief among victims of the 2013 flash floods in Uttarakhand which killed over 5000 people.
Officials supervising relief efforts allegedly stayed in luxurious hotels, binged on mutton chops and chicken and committed a host of financial irregularities in the distribution of relief, milking the worst natural disaster to have hit the state in recent times, the RTI response revealed.
Officials claimed Rs 194 for half a litre of milk and bills of more than Rs 7,000 per day for hotel stays, paid relief twice to the same people, and made payment of Rs 98 lakh for fuel purchase to a helicopter company, the response said.
However, despite recommendation of a CBI probe by state Information Commissioner Anil Sharma, Chief Minister Harish Rawat ordered an inquiry by then Chief Secretary N Ravishankar into the irregularities and siphoning of funds.
The result was on expected lines. The investigating committee gave a clean chit to officials in the scam saying there were “no irregularities anywhere”.
Though Opposition BJP kept clamouring for a CBI probe
into the scam, the state government did not find it necessary.
Even before dust could settle down on the alleged flood relief scam, another blow to the ruling Congress came in July when Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman released a sting video at a press conference in New Delhi allegedly showing Harish Rawat’s secretary Mohammad Shahid, a senior IAS officer on deputation in Uttarakhand, seeking bribe from liquor mafia in return for liquor licences.
The political temperatures shot up immediately in Uttarakhand with opposition BJP demanding the chief minister’s resignation and the latter denying the charges and calling it the BJP’s political stunt.
BJP’s demand for a CBI probe into the state government’s nexus with liquor barons was rejected by Rawat who said the Opposition party should first provide the original CD in the case which is a must for any probe.
However, the official purportedly shown negotiating a bribery deal for liquor licences in the sting CD was recalled to Delhi.
The Centre’s Department of Personnel and Training cut short Shahid’s Uttarakhand tenure and called him back to Delhi where he was posted before being sent on deputation to Dehradun soon after Rawat took over as Chief Minister in February 2014.
After a brief interval during the festival season, Uttarakhand was back in the news towards the fag end of the year as the sexual exploitation and subsequent abortion of an inmate with speech and hearing impaired at the city’s lone government-run women’s shelter home came to light.
Medical examination of the victim confirmed rape and abortion. An SIT headed by SP City Ajay Singh was constituted to look into the case which has rounded up over half a dozen employees of the shelter home including its director but the main culprit who perpetrated the crime on the physically challenged woman is still at large.
Two constables were knocked down by a truck of animal traffickers in Udhamsingh Nagar district earlier this month when they tried to stop it following a tip-off. One of them died on the spot and the other sustained critical injuries prompting the BJP to assert that law and order has touched an all time low with wrongdoers emboldened like never before.
2015 will also be remembered for solid reconstruction work carried out in Kedarnath which had been witness to massive devastation during the 2013 flashfloods.
In October, Rawat inaugurated and laid the foundation stone of reconstruction projects worth nearly Rs 115 crore in Kedarnath saying efforts were underway to develop the areas adjoining the famed Himalayan shrine as the “paradise of winter tourism”.