Vijay Bahadur is a widely respected activist as well as a former village pradhan from Banda district of Uttar Pradesh. During his tenure as village pradhan he had played a very important role in the distribution of housing land among the poorest households, an effort which was widely appreciated.
About two years back he came across several cases of corruption and due to his commitment to public causes he decided to pursue these so that the misuse of public funds could be avoided. His investigation with the help of other villagers pointed to at least 9 clear cases of corruption. In seven of these cases pre-existing roads had been shown as newly constructed roads, and money was shown to have been spent on these without any expense being incurred. In another case a repair work was shown to have taken place in a school without this being done and in one case a hand-pump that did not exist was shown.
Apart from specifying the location where frauds had taken place, Vijay Bahadur investigated the matter further to find at least two officials involved in this corruption. Further, he alleged that one of them had transferred public funds to his private account by misusing his official position.
Despite providing specific details time and again and taking up these corruption cases at several levels, and despite having a well-established reputation for his integrity and good work, Vijay Bahadur has not succeeded in his efforts for recovery of misused funds so that these can be spent on genuine development work.
This points to an increasing trend of covering up corruption cases. Another factor that is involved in this case is that Vijay Bahadur being a dalit activist, some powerful persons feel particularly angry that a dalit is becoming so bold as to raise corruption cases in which powerful local persons are involved. This becomes evident from the fact, as Vijay Bahadur told this writer, that he was rudely manhandled, insulted and humiliated while he was pursuing this case. What is worse, he says, he has been implicated in an entirely false case himself. As he stated in a very sad voice—If this is the fate of an elderly person who is highly regarded by many and has the support of many poor households, then what will be the fate of those idealist youth who want to raise a voice against corruption?
Further, Vijay Bahadur alleges, what has been happening is a very serious matter of investigation of corruption complaints leading to further corruption instead of leading to exposure of corruption and the action related to this.
All this is sending a very wrong message of discouraging any efforts to check corruption. In the interests of proper utilization of funds, curbing corruption and promoting transparency, it is very important to ensure that the true situation in uncovered in such cases such as those raised by Vijay Bahadur so that a strong message can be disseminated that the corrupt will not be able to get away by using tactics such as the distribution of illegally earned money further among others, expanding the chain of corruption. Hence Vijay Bahadur clearly needs wider support of more people and activists in his courageous campaign against corruption. If this results in suitable action against the corrupt and withdrawal of false case against Vijay Bahadur, then this will give a much-needed strong boost to the efforts for proper utilization of development funds at the local level.
Bharat Dogra is a senior award winning journalist and Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine (Gandhian Ideas for Our Times) and Protecting Earth for Children.