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Niyamat case stirs up govt

Ranchi, June 1: Jharkhand government may be finally shedding its reluctance to ask the CBI to probe the March 2 killing of MGNREGS whistleblower Niyamat Ansari with the chief secretary seeking a status report on the Latehar police’s investigations into the case that has exposed the state’s poor implementation of the Centre’s flagship job scheme.

Chief secretary S.K. Chowdhary’s move, a likely precursor to the state agreeing to engage the central investigating agency, comes after rural development minister Sudesh Mahto referred the case to the home department for its opinion a fortnight back.

Secretary of the Union rural development ministry B. K. Sinha has been asking the state government to order a CBI probe into the murder that sent shockwaves across the country, ever since he visited Jharkhand on a fact-finding mission on March 12 and 13.

“We are not ignoring the Centre’s recommendation,” Chowdhary took pains to explain, “but we want to first know the status of the investigation and also find out whether there is any scope for further investigation.”

If there was, the chief secretary added, he would put up the file for the chief minister’s consent — for a CBI inquiry — when he returns from the US on June 10.

Chowdhary explained the Centre could not order a CBI probe on its own in the Ansari case since, since it was a case of homicide and not corruption.

Sinha agreed. “The Centre cannot order a CBI probe on its own. The state government has to refer the case to the CBI,” he told The Telegraph from New Delhi.

After his visit, Sinha prepared a report, in which he called for a CBI inquiry into Ansari’s murder since, he felt, an attempt was on in Jharkhand to orchestrate a cover-up.

In his report, made public in New Delhi a couple of days back, the Union rural development secretary also called for serious action against the Latehar deputy commissioner and other officials for dereliction of duty as they had failed to prevent MGNREGS funds from being siphoned off.

A committee constituted by the Union rural development ministry, comprising economist Jean Drèze, National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy, among others, had come to the conclusion that the job scheme was in the grip of middlemen and that Ansari paid with his life for trying to expose them.

In its report, the committee noted that Ansari was dragged out of his house in Jerua village of Manika block in Latehar district and beaten to death by Maoists on March 2 at the behest of a group of middlemen who stood by and watched.

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