YADAV Singh does not need an introduction any more. The suspended ex-Chief Engineer of the Noida Development Authority, Greater Noida Development Authority and Yamuna Expressway Authority is now among the uncrowned kings of the great Indian corruption bazaar. A person who joined the Noida Authority in 1980 as a junior engineer, finds his place among his illustrious brothers in the UP engineering sector who are said to have siphoned off billions from the State exchequer. These people are among some leading examples of extreme distortion of the present-day bureaucratic system where deceitful, enterprising, unscrupulous, dishonest and corrupt people can hijack the entire system through the aid and assistance of powerful political masters and equally unscrupulous powerful bureaucrats.
But while Yadav Singh is there for everyone to see, an important point being less discussed is the making of Yadav Singhs. Yadav Singh could not have been made in one day. We all know what is the position and situation of a junior engineer, or an assistant engineer, or an executive engineer, in the government framework vis-à-vis the big lords—the politicians and top bureaucrats. He is nothing more than small fry in the big ocean, one who is always fearful of his existence and is always wary of the huge structure under which he has to work.
If in such a structure, people like Yadav Singh are emerging, it needs to be understood that it can happen only when he is supported by all kinds of external powers—be it his senior officers, the senior bureaucrats, the powerful politicians or the other big touts; in fact, everyone in the machinery who is anything and has the power to impact the making or breaking of the system in any manner.
If we go slightly deeper in this particular example, we find that everyone knew how a diploma-holder rose dramatically through the ranks to become so powerful as to subvert the entire system through his corrupt means. It is also known that Singh was extremely close to many top politicians, who occupied the veritable seats of power in the State, whose blessings he got while undertaking all kinds of illegal acts, other than taking huge kickbacks and commissions in his job as an engineer.
It is known that Singh was extremely close to many top politicians, whose blessings he got while undertaking all kinds of illegal acts
It is true that the income-tax department raid changed everything for this man who is said to be living like a king in Noida, but there are many close acquaintances of this man who are said to be saying with full confidence that even today he is least perturbed because he knows that finally he will be able to sail through because, when it would come to operating in the hugely complex legal maze, he would again emerge powerful because of the massive assistance he would get from the battery of talented legal eagles, equally supported by the lacunae in the investigation process and the various loopholes in the existing law that his legal friends would find out. Hence, these people feel, whatever is happening today is nothing but a transient storm that will soon pass off. The confidence of these people naturally gets bolstered by the fact that Singh has seen all this previously.
The man who, in 2002, was elevated to the post of chief maintenance engineer directly from a junior post, allegedly carried out after sidelining all other eligible officials who were senior to him, first faced the heat of the law enforcement machinery when in March 2012 an inquiry was ordered into the allocation of work to the tune of `954 crore in violation of rules and regulations and reports of experts in Noida, where he was accused of masterminding the scam. A suspension notice was pasted at his house, his office was sealed, an FIR was filed against him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, besides sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, are the UP Gangster and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986. Singh was said to have left the country and, on the recommendation of the Noida Police, a red corner notice was issued by Interpol. A five-star hotel in Noida was sealed on the assumption that he had a stake in it.
And yet, within a few months, in a complete shift of fortune, the red corner notice was withdrawn, the hotel was re-opened and the CB-CID found that no charges were made against him. His suspension was revoked in November 2013 and after about a year, he was engineer-in-chief of the Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway Authorities, all at the same time.
The example of Singh presented here is not to pinpoint a single individual. If there was one Singh, the matter could have been controlled. But there are two distinct factors that make this matter extremely worrisome and frightening. The first is that he is not an isolated phenomenon. It is just that this happened to him, otherwise there are thousands of Yadav Singhs operating coolly, recklessly, mercilessly and daringly in the system. Singh’s case came on record because he got caught while the rest are all sitting pretty.
The second factor that makes this phenomenon dangerous is the fact that all these people get the best support from the present-day system. Every Yadav Singh has any number of friends and well-wishers among his peers, his superior officers in the department, senior bureaucratic circles and the political class. They also have many friends among journalists, legal professionals and even among social activists. This is because these people have money to spend.
THEY are milk-yielding cows who can provide money, logistical support, material comforts, costly gifts and so on to anyone desirous of these good things of life, which naturally makes them the favourite of many. They are milking the system with both hands and are distributing a part of this booty to all concerned powerful elements, which makes everyone happy and gives these Yadav Singhs a natural position of privilege and advantage. Contrast this with an honest government employee living off his salary, who is neither going to take an extra step to do things out of the rulebook nor is going to give a single penny to anyone. Naturally, such empty-pocket people can never be the crowd-pullers and are bound to remain lonely while the Yadav Singhs, openly playing with the system, are bound to be the system’s favourite.
It is this situation, the larger societal reaction, the bigger public assistance and people’s approval towards the Yadav Singhs of society, that actually make them dangerous just the way the glamorisation and acceptance of mafia dons and criminal-politicians does.
Add to this the various other factors that come to the rescue of these Yadav Singhs, right from the law to the law enforcement authorities to the legal eagles to sometimes even the judiciary, and we understand why they are so powerful and dangerous and why we need to fight most vociferously against each of them—ideologically, legally, socially and politically—if we are truly interested in having the better, cleaner or more transparent system that we allegedly strive for.
Amitabh Thakur, an IPS officer from UP, is also working for transparency in governance. The views expressed are personal.