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‘Civil war’ in Meghalaya

- Two deputy commissioners in graft charge face-off

Tura, Aug. 5: The construction of school toilets under the Total Sanitation Campaign in Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills has led to a “war” between two civil servants based in Tura and Williamnagar.

West Garo Hills deputy commissioner Pravin Bakshi has responded to a local media report alleging that Rs 5 crore was misappropriated by him during his tenure as the deputy commissioner of East Garo Hills.

It was reported that Bakshi allegedly allowed the systematic looting of public funds to benefit the Meghalaya Rural Development Society, a government-funded society, and a local contractor.

Bakshi, as chairman of the District Water and Sanitation Committee, allowed the signing of two MoUs with the society for construction of 691 school toilets, which is now under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan scheme.

In his detailed clarification, Bakshi said, “It is a concocted report, which has been framed by Vijay Mantri.”

Mantri is the current deputy commissioner of East Garo Hills.

Bakshi is an IAS officer of the 2006 batch, whereas Mantri is an IAS officer of the 2007 batch. Both belong to the Assam-Meghalaya cadre.

Bakshi is of the view that a fellow IAS officer has used media to defame him.

Terming the media report as one-sided, Bakshi said, “I had promised my senior officers that this will be an internal matter, for which I shall seek justice from the higher authorities, but vested interests involved have left me with no options.”

He also said he has sent a letter to the local newspaper regarding filing of a defamation suit for carrying the story, which is factually “incorrect”.

Bakshi has blamed Mantri for having a deep personal grudge against him. “Mantri has indulged in character assassination and mudslinging, for which I have documentary proof and oral depositions. He (Mantri) has always tried to find fault and frame me,” said Bakshi.

Bakshi also questioned the timing of the move, asking why Mantri slept over the issue for two-and-a-half years and leaked the report as the former is being transferred out of the district.

“Mantri has bullied and harassed and used his official position to manufacture the report to his liking on totally false premises,” Bakshi added.

Giving details on the report of funds misappropriation, Bakshi said, “The society team has done its own fact-finding, none of which has pointed anything towards me. Even his own magistrate, who was doing the fact-finding, did not find any fault. Mantri tried to coerce him into giving a report to his liking.”

Bakshi in his letter to chief secretary W.M.S. Pariat on June 14 this year had stated, “After being defamed and named repeatedly in the reports submitted by Vijay Kumar Mantri, which has come to my notice, I took it upon myself to salvage my reputation and collect records and evidence that prove the ill-will that had gone into the making of the two motivated reports.”

He even went on to state that what Mantri has done to his predecessor sets an ugly precedent of “witch hunting” and “defamation”, not to mention abuse of authority and judicial powers.

When contacted, Mantri said, “I am shocked to see the report of school toilets in the newspaper. We have submitted the report to the government on December 17, 2013. I have not given these reports to the media. I am currently undergoing training in Mumbai and have no idea how it was leaked. I respect Bakshi, as he is my senior and guided me on many occasions. I will not do anything to tarnish his image.”