CNN-IBN, Updated 1028 hrs IST (+GMT 5:30), 16.02.06
Uttar Pradesh: In a series of investigations, CNN-IBN Special Investigation Team travelled to the Hindi heartland to turn the spotlight on obscure, unknown MLAs and to find out how deep and how widespread political corruption is in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh.
They found that in UP, many politicians with criminal and corrupt backgrounds are thriving, especially in the eastern districts. Somaru Ram Saroj was a BJP MLA representing the Kerakat constituency in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly.
The team told him part of the truth – that they were in Kerakat to cover rural politics.
Kerakat is a five-hour drive from Lucknow, and is situated on the fringe of crime-infested eastern UP in Jaunpur – ironically Jaunpur of Bunty aur Babli fame.
Somaru Ram posed as a sincere man and seemed self-effacingly humble.
He claimed to be married to the cause of social justice and development of poor and backward castes and as the CNN-IBN SIT watched, he actually broke down while giving an emotional speech to a classroom full of children.
However, the team was soon to realise that behind this endearing face is a man who is corrupt to the core.
This twice-elected BJP MLA is proud of his Dalit background and the struggle he has endured to become a member of the UP Legislative Assembly.
As Somaru Ram regained his composure, the team found it tough to believe that he was more susceptible to easy money because of his poor and deprived background.
"I have never taken money. I am close to death. I am happy with what I have. Why should I take money?" an indignant Somaru Ram told the team.
That was one half of the reality that the team saw of Somaru Ram.
However, soon afterwards, the team captured on camera images of the same man – the other side of the schizophrenic reality of political corruption in UP.
Some members of the team approached Somaru Ram as representatives of an NGO which had been sanctioned Rs 2.5 crore by an international funding agency.
They told the MLA that they are interested in setting up development projects, including schools, in his constituency.
In return they wanted him to ensure their protection from the criminal gangs and extortionists of Eastern UP.
The following are excerpts from the conversation caught on the hidden camera:
DIG: "Kyon ki hamara paisa dhai karod jo hai sanction ho gaya hai. Pehla cheque jo hai, first phase ka, pachchees lakh ka, jo construction ka hai, voh bhi aa chukka hai. Isi liye hum turant kaam shuru karna chahate hain." (Since we have already been sanctioned Rs 2.5 crores and the cheque for the first phase of the project of Rs 25 lakh has already been given to us, so we want to start our work as soon as we can."
Somaru Ram: "Kab se kaam shuru karenge?" (When will you start the work from?)
DIG: "Diwali ke baad." (After Diwali).
Somaru Ram: "Hanh hanh Diwali ke baad aayiye, kaam kariye." (Yes yes, come after Diwali and start your project.)
DIG: "Survey ke liye to abhi aana hai na. Aapka sanrakshan hai sir poora." (But we have to be here right now for the survey to begin. Sir, do we have all your protection?)"
Somaru Ram: "Ek dam sanrakshan hai. Yahan koi nahin." (Don’t worry, you have my protection. No one will touch you here.)"
DIG: "Ab aap bata dijiye sir kitna." (Now you only tell how much.)
Somaru Ram: (laughs) "Kya batain." (What should I tell?)
DIG: "Jo bhi hai. Jo aap batain, kitni seva karni hai. (Whatever it is, whatever you tell us. How much do we have to give to look after you?)"
Somaru Ram: "Aapko jo dena hai. (Whatever you want to give.)"
Finally, this is how the deal-making comes to a climatic end.
DIG: "Survey shuru ho jayega ek hafte ke baad, Diwali ke baad pehle kaam shuru." (The survery will start after Diwali and before that we want to give you a gift. Please accept it.)
(Somaru Ram accepts Rs 5,000 as commission.)
DIG: "Bahut thoda hai sir." (Sir it’s a very small amount.)
Somaru Ram: "Kitna hai bhai. Panch hai?" (How much is it? Is it five thousand?)
DIG: "Panch hazar hai. Gin lijiye sir." (Yes it’s Rs 5,000. You can count it.)
Somaru Ram: "Nahin kya ginun? Yeh panch hazaar huye." (No no. What is there to count?)
DIG: "To mahine ke kabhi chahenge sir. Shuruwat mein chahenge, ya aakhir mein chahenge." (So when should we pay you your monthly commission sir? Beginning of the month or end of the month?)
Somaru Ram: "Kya?" (What?)
DIG: "Jo amount hoga." (The amount sir.)
Somaru Ram: "Hanh pehle aake kuch lagaiye. Uske baad." (First come and start your project. After that.)
DIG: "Ek minute yeh panch ka gi gaddi hain na sir. Ek minute sir." (Sir one minute. Is this a five thousand bundle?)
Somaru Ram: "Hanh theek hai." (Yes it’s five thousand).
DIG: "Mujhe laga kam ho gaya. Gin lijiye sir aap." (Oh. I thought they might be less. Please count it sir.)
Somaru Ram: Hanh? (What?)
DIG: "Gin lijiye." (Please count it sir.)
Somaru Ram: "Yeh bada purana note hai." (This is a very old note.)
DIG: "Jeb mein rakh lijiye sir. Yeh pehli kisht hai sanrakshan ki, hum logon ko, hamari NGO ko. Ab hum ek dam assured ho gaye sir. Ab to hume ashwasan ho gaya ke vidhayak ji hamare liye murder bhi karva denge." (Please pocket the money safely sir. This is the first installment for our protection. Now we are rest assured and convinced that you would even commit murder for us.)
Somaru Ram: "Er?"
DIG: "Murder bhi karva denge, agar hume koi chedega to." (You will get people murdered if they say anything to us.)
Somaru Ram: "Koi chedega nahin. Kya chedega. Ab aap inke har hafte contact mein rahiyega theek hai." (Now no one will say anything to you. Now you stay in touch every week.)
Somaru Ram then keeps the money in his pocket.