A scam that took place right under the police’s nose
Noida: Additional director general of police (Meerut zone) Prashant Kumar, who is overlooking the investigations into the alleged Home Guards salary scam, said the fraud is likely to cross the ₹500 crore mark in the state as more and more details of monetary irregularities were being unearthed in almost all districts of Uttar Pradesh.
“While cases with the same modus operandi have already been registered in Gautam Budh Nagar, Lucknow and Bulandshahr districts, tentacles of the scam have been found in Aligarh, Kannauj, Agra, Bahraich, Prayagraj, Varanasi and Ghaziabad as well,” he said.
The Noida police which blew the lid off this alleged scam, initially registered an FIR against unnamed officials on November 13 for the alleged fraudulent withdrawal of salaries of 114 Home Guards personnel for 1,327 days, amounting to about ₹7 lakh. However, that was just the tip of an iceberg.
Within five days of registering the case, all records kept at the district commandant’s office in Surajpur were found burnt on November 18. The same day, the case was transferred to the crime branch and, eight days later, the man, who allegedly burnt the records, was nabbed by the Noida police on November 26, on the basis of some video footage from near the scene of fire.
The identity of man who allegedly burnt the records, platoon commander Rajeev Kumar, flummoxed the police. For he was also the whistle-blower who had alerted the Gautam Budh Nagar SSP Vaibhav Krihna about the monetary irregularities.
This discovery has led several Home Guards personnel to allege that this was one scam that took place right under the nose of the Gautam Budh Nagar police.
HOME GUARDS DEPLOYMENT
UPHAAR, Uttar Pradesh Home Guards Automation & Rotation System, is a unique e-governance model in Uttar Pradesh, developed to assign duties through Internet to thousands of home guards on a monthly basis. They provide a vital back-up to the state police in maintenance of law and order and internal security, apart from helping the community in any kind of emergency such as an air-raid, fire, cyclone, earthquake or epidemic. So far, 34,45,628 home guards are deployed across 75 districts of UP.
In Gautam Budh Nagar, different offices, including police stations, fire department, district magistrate, electricity office and traffic, send requisition to the district Home Guard commandant concerned for personnel.
While making payments, the offices countersign the number and man days of the personnel deployed, to get the payment from the treasury.
But in this scam, counterfeit muster rolls were made by officials, with inflated numbers of personnel deployed and man days, to fraudulently withdraw money. As the nature of the services of Home Guards is not permanent, getting half their remuneration in advance was made a custom for constables. Some influential constables were made unpaid platoon commandants to act as touts for higher officials.
ROLE OF PLATOON COMMANDANT
The police said Kumar admitted to burning the documents using a bottle of kerosene oil and a rod to break open the lock of the room where the papers were kept.
Police said Kumar had worked as a “tout” in the scam and shared the siphoned off money with higher officials and also collected a “commission” from the personnel to whom they provided additional duties.
Police said Kumar had met several higher police officers of Gautam Budh Nagar district – including Krishna – in July this year to expose the role of higher officials in the alleged scam. Police said he did this after he was allegedly denied a part of the “commission”.
The police, on November 18, had arrested five suspects for fudging attendance records. They were identified as platoon commandants Satyaveer Yadav, Shailendra Kumar and Montu Kumar, former district commandant Ram Narayan Chaurasia (currently posted as divisional commandant in Aligarh), and assistant commandant Satish Chandra.
Later that day, or on the intervening night of November 18-19, Kumar allegedly burnt the muster rolls of the force since 2014, which were kept in the office of district commandant in Surajpur, Greater Noida.
On November 26, Kumar was arrested by the special investigation team of Gautam Budh Nagar police led by SP (city) Vineet Jaiswal. According to SSP Krishna, Kumar allegedly told the police that he burnt all documents to save touts who are mainly part of the constabulary. According to him, Kumar had an apprehension that higher officials involved in the scam would manage to save themselves from the investigating agencies, not so the ones in the constabulary.
Kumar then gave a ‘mysterious’ twist to the tale — he allegedly told police that several district police officers were also in on the fraud.
The SSP, however, believes that no police personnel was involved in the scam, that is suspected to have been taking place in the district since 2002.
“No police officer would like to chop his hands off by fudging general duty (GD) registers. They only signed on original muster rolls. Only the Home Guards personnel made the counterfeit muster rolls with inflated and fudged attendance, to fraudulently withdraw the money from the treasury,” Krishna said.
Only the forensic team from Gujarat, which is currently investigating the genuineness of signatures on the allegedly fudged muster rolls and comparing them with the original ones kept at police stations, can ascertain the role of police in this scam.
But contrary to the SSP’s claims, when HT reached out to some of the Home Guards personnel, they said that it was an eyewash to claim that no ‘policewallah’ had knowledge of it.
“We work with them and we know each other’s mode of working. They (police) know that half our remuneration goes directly into the pockets of scamsters since ages. How can they claim innocence now?” said one of them working with the traffic police, on condition of anonymity.
Another constable working in the Collectorate claimed that being a non-permanent force, Home Guards are the scapegoats in any sensitive case. “I believe that platoon commander Rajeev Kumar was a ‘double agent’. How can we believe that he burnt all the documents, only on the apprehension of false implication of constabulary? Many of us feel that he did it to save the police officers involved in the racket,” constable Dinesh Singh said.