The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Neera’s way: woo all parties

Lucknow, Oct. 6: Neera Yadav, once voted the second most corrupt bureaucrat in the state by her peers, turns to caste whenever she is in trouble.

“I know why of all other officers who are also facing corruption cases, I am being singled out for a media campaign. This is only because I happen to be from a backward caste,” she is known to say.

On April 30, when the 1971 batch officer was promoted to the state’s top post, the media dug up the corruption cases pending against her as well as the state’s refusals to sanction her prosecution.

Neera, 55, has always been on the right side of every government, irrespective of the party in power. Her husband Mahendra Singh Yadav, an IAS officer-turned-politician, was education minister in the Kalyan Singh government and is now a BJP MLA.

But that has not come in the way of Neera’s relations with other parties.

She was appointed secretary to the chief minister in the mid-eighties when Vir Bahadur Singh headed the Congress regime.

In the late eighties, during Mulayam Singh Yadav’s first term, she was secretary, department of appointments. In 1994, in his second stint, she became CEO of the Noida Development Authority.

Under Kalyan Singh, in the late nineties, she was principal secretary, food and civil supplies.

Mayavati created the post of additional chief secretary for her in 2002.

The CBI holds that it is this wide acceptability among all parties that emboldened Neera and helped her amass properties worth crores in Noida, Delhi and Ghaziabad.

The wealth first became public knowledge when Joginder Singh, then CBI director, wrote to governor Romesh Bhandari in December 1996 that “she had acquired immovable property worth Rs 10 crore disproportionate to her income between January 10, 1994, and December 8, 1995, as chairman and CEO of Noida”. The letter was leaked.

Vijay Rama Rao, Singh’s predecessor, had also written to then cabinet secretary Surender Singh on December 6, 1995, that “Mrs Yadav has been committing serious violations with regard to allotment, conversion and regularisation of commercial and residential plots against consideration of huge bribe money'.”

In 1996, a group of IAS officers who had launched a campaign against corruption voted Neera the second most corrupt bureaucrat in the state in a secret ballot. The most corrupt officer, A.P. Singh, also rose to be chief secretary in the Mulayam Singh government in 2003. But he resigned after a case was filed in the Supreme Court.

The next year, a PIL was filed against her, following which the Supreme Court asked the CBI to investigate the corruption charges. The CBI filed seven chargesheets on March 10, 2003, before two courts in Ghaziabad.

The chargesheets are still pending as the state refused permission to prosecute her.

In May this year, a PIL was filed challenging her appointment as chief secretary. Today’s verdict was in response to this petition.

The court said it was possible for allegations to be levelled against an officer likely to be appointed to a sensitive post to damage their reputation, but in the instant case, the state should have steered clear of controversy and not named Neera chief secretary.

A committee headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, Justice K.T. Thomas, is inquiring into the allegations against Neera. The state could have waited till the committee submitted its report before promoting her, the judges said.

When Neera was appointed chief secretary in April, Mulayam Singh had described her as an efficient officer. “I don’t know about the corruption cases. I don’t consider anyone corrupt unless he or she is proven guilty of corruption in a court case,” he said, ignoring the fact that his government had barred her prosecution.

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