by Girish Mishra, Zmag , December 12, 2006
Not many people outside Jharkhand, the newly state in India, richest in minerals, would have heard the name of Ram Ashray Singh. There is absolutely no question of giving attention to this little educated and rustic gentleman by our booming electronic media that boast of cleansing our polity and society of corruption through sting operation, come what may, or of bringing to light the truthful news, “whatever it may take.” Even the great Tehelka does not seem to be aware of Ram Ashray Singh and his great persistence in fighting for the poor and downtrodden against the all-powerful Mafia, be it coal Mafia or land Mafia in Jharkhand.
He has continuously approached the media, both electronic and print, leaders of all political parties, social workers and intellectuals, cutting across ideological barriers and a number of them have supported his fight and expressed solidarity with him. The Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee, the Communist Party of India, the CPI (ML), the JMM and the Samajwadi Party have formally backed his struggle. Some of the intellectuals supporting his fight and signing letters to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee are Om Thanvi, editor, Jan Satta, eminent Hindi critic Namwar Singh, social scientist Rajni Kothari, former V. C. of the Ranchi University, Ram Dayal Munda, the late Arun Ghosh, one time member of the Planning Commission, and the legal luminary the late V. M. Tarkunde. Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, former Lok Sabha Speaker Rabi Ray and Shibu Soren have been among the politicians urging Vajpayee to intervene. Yet nothing has happened and the Mafia is unperturbed. Even after the departure of the Vajpayee government and the fall of the Munda dispensation in Ranchi, the situation at the ground level remains the same or has deteriorated, as common people are concerned. It is not that the new dispensation at the Centre or the State has not been approached. Yet no action is visible even at the distant horizon. And this underlines the powerful nexus of Mafia-Bureaucracy-Politicians, highlighted by the Vohra Committee in the early 1990s.
Thanks to the perseverance of Singh against all odds and threats, in the beginning of this year as many as 29 people including a number of officers of the Bharat Coking Coal Limited and the Fertiliser corporation of India, both public sector undertakings, were sentenced to various terms in jail. The charge was that in the name of supplying coal to the Fertiliser Corporation of India, the Bharat Coking Coal Ltd. had sent wagons full of boulders and ash. The private sector coal testing company, belonging to the Karam Chand Thapar, had certified that the wagons contained coal of specified grade. It needs to be noted that the culprits were punished in spite of the best efforts of the administration to save them. Ram Ashray Singh is determined to bring the two officials, namely, D. N. Prasad, then general manager of the Fertiliser Corporation of India and Akhilesh Kumar Singh of the Bharat Coking Coke Limited, to books by appealing to higher courts. He says: “What I feel is that the prosecution put up a weak effort to establish charges against the accused persons. My statement can be corroborated with the observations of the district and sessions judge of Dhanbad against the assistant public prosecutor.”
Singh has, in an affidavit of 6th June 2006, underlined the complicity of the office of the then Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda and alleged a nexus between the BJP-led government and the Mafia. According to the affidavit, important documents relating to various scams disappeared from the Chief Minister’s office. Thus an effort was made to hush up scams involving Rs 12,000 crore to save the Mafia.
Singh resubmitted some of the missing documents to the Chief Minister and requested him to initiate an enquiry into the scams but he did not do anything. Even the efforts of a prominent BJP MLA and leader Saryu Rai to persuade the Chief Minister to refer the case to the CBI failed. It was alleged that a substantial share in the loot made Munda turn a blind eye to this demand. The police and investigating officers have been trying to delay and torpedo the judicial process by not appearing before courts. In one instance the police refused to register a case against Saya Narayan Dudani, a multi-millionaire businessman for getting poor tribal Majhalu Marandi. Under the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, no non-tribal can buy or grab the landholding belonging to a tribal on any pretext. Businessmen with the connivance of administration and politicians have consigned this stipulation to the dustbin. Ram Ashray Singh, in his affidavit has given numerous concrete instances.
Ram Ashray Singh has highlighted the close connection between the former Chief Minister Arjun Munda and the Tatas. It appears that they formed a mutual benefit society. It should not cause any surprise. Looking back into history, one finds the involvement of the Tatas from behind scene with Jharkhand politics from the 1930s onwards and utilization of zamindari rights secured from the Dhalbhum Raj, which remained untouched even after zamindari was abolished in the undivided Bihar for extra-economic coercion of the workers.
During the previous BJP-led government, the allocations by the Central government for the development of the State and uplift of the poor tribals have been siphoned away by the nexus of the Mafia-bureaucracy-politicians. Viewed against this background, if one finds the Naxals spreading their influence and extending their mass base one should not be surprised. The instability in the BJP-led government too was the result of the efforts by various groups and individuals to have greater shares in the loot.
It is high time that progressive parties, intellectuals and serious-minded media persons give proper attention to what people like Ram Ashray Singh, working at grass root level say.
Girish Mishra, E-mail: [email protected]