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‘Iron lady’ takes on Bihar mafia machine

Patna, July 7: The Bihar mafia is known to run the state, but it is the oily clerks who keep the mafia machine rolling.

The power wielded by one such clerk has come to light with a former divisional commissioner, dubbed the “iron lady” for her reforming zeal, taking on her former clerk and his political masters.

For the last 20 years, Ajit Poddar, a senior personal assistant to the Darbhanga commissioner, was the conduit between the commission and the local contractor-mafia nexus.

Poddar’s clandestine empire of wheeling and dealing was based on the self-perpetuating cycle of corruption in Bihar which has retarded development in the state.

But “iron lady” Amita Paul has challenged the foundations of the empire by petitioning the chief secretary for a thorough probe. “From the manner in which the information used to be leaked from my confidential files at the commission when I was holding charge, it was clear that Poddar had a nexus with the education mafia operating in the area, particularly with the unlawful elements in the management of the four so-called dental colleges in Darbhanga,” she said.

At that time, Paul was fighting a protracted legal battle against four unauthorised dental colleges in Mithila.

Poddar has been absconding since last year when a case alleging that he defrauded a Scheduled Caste member of Rs 80,000 for getting his brother a job, was registered against him 11 years after the event.

Poddar, whom no commissioner dared to transfer, absconded from work thereafter and was recently sacked. He has since gone underground.

The former commissioner said in her petition that on taking charge, she had asked Poddar to hand over the confidential files to other assistants. As many as 865 files with classified information were found in the custody of Poddar and his associates, including fellow clerk Sanjay Saran.

Poddar was also found to have 265 letters of complaint that had not been entered in the record books. Paul said whenever Poddar got hold of a confidential file, he kept it with himself and after some time began blackmailing the person concerned. He would settle the matter in exchange for a hefty amount and bury the files.

“Poddar built up a well-organised network with the ministerial and other staff of the inspector-general, deputy inspector-general, superintendents and the divisional magistrates of the region for the past 20 years,” Paul said in her petition.

The former commissioner, who probed the nature of Poddar’s appointment, found his induction into the commissioner’s office was illegal as proper procedures had not been followed. The file relating to Poddar’s appointment and promotion is missing.

“Clerks like Poddar and his ilk are the dens of corruption. Commissioners come and go. But men like Poddar continue for ever in Bihar,” says Paul.

The clerk managed to stay afloat all these years owing to his links with powerful politicians and the mafia. Poddar used to pull strings politically on the basis of his clout at the district road transport authority, which would issue licences to politicians for their fleet of vehicles.

The commission would issue group permits for inter-district vehicles. Most Bihar politicians operate long-distance buses.

But Paul’s petition has caused little political impact. P.K. Sinha, a Samata Party rebel, drew attention to the petition in the Bihar Council following which the government promised a probe. CPI-ML legislator Rajaram also raised the same issue in the Assembly.

But local politicians wish to steer clear of the controversy as most are said to be part of the clerk-mafia nexus.

The extent to which the nexus pervades can be gauged from the way Sadhu Yadav, brother of chief minister Rabri Devi, stormed the commissioner’s office in 2001 when a transport inspector close to him was transferred. Sadhu demanded that the order be withdrawn.

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