By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 4 Feb: In the year 2017, before the assembly elections, BJP had promised to implement the Lokayukta Act in the state. However, even after four years in power, the BJP Government has dithered on implementing the Act passed by it months before the state assembly elections held in 2012 under the chief ministership of BC Khanduri. Though the state has an office of the Lokayukta, there is no one posted as Lokayukta for more than 7 years now.
During this period, the Lokayukta’s office has received 904 complaints, and now the total number of pending complaints stands at 1543. These numbers include various complaints regarding serious cases of corruption but, without any Lokayukta, no action has been taken in case of the complaints in a regime that boasts of zero tolerance towards corruption. Not only this, what is even more ironic is the fact that, though there is no Lokayukta, the Office continues to incur significant expenditure to maintain and run. In response to one RTI inquiry, it has been revealed that, in the past seven years, the Office has incurred expenditure to the tune of Rs 13.38 crores till the Financial Year that ended in March 2020.
An RTI inquiry was submitted to the Public Information Officer of the Lokayukta’s Office seeking information in this regard. The Public Information Officer of the Department of Personnel disclosed that the Office of the Lokayukta did not have any information available as per its records on any action or proceedings regarding appointment of the Lokayukta in Uttarakhand.
It may be recalled that, despite promising implementation of the Lokayukta Act in the state, the government, including Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, are on record for claiming that the government had zero tolerance towards corruption and that there was no need to appoint a Lokayukta as there is no corruption in the state! As per the information made available by the Public Information Officer of the Office, the Lokayukta’s post has been lying vacant since 24 September, 2013.
The Public Information Officer of the Lokayukta’s office provided year-wise information on pending and received complaints, statements and expenses incurred from the year 2013-14 to September 30, 2020.
According to the information available, 904 complaints were received during this period and, with them, the total number of pending complaints including 74 complaints of serious corruption had gone up to 1543 now. Meanwhile, during this time, expenditure of Rs 13.38 crores had been incurred to maintain the office of the Lokayukta from the financial year 2012-13 till October 2020. Of this expenditure, an amount of Rs 1.595 crores had been spent on salaries of the regular staff posted at the Office.
It may be recalled that, although the then BJP Government led by Chief Minister BC Khanduri had managed to get the Lokayukta Act passed unanimously in the state assembly, supposedly on the lines of what had been proposed by social activist Anna Hazare and had included the office of chief minister too under its ambit, the BJP had lost the 2012 assembly elections. The Act was in reality never implemented. The Congress, which came to power under the leadership of then CM Vijay Bahuguna, dumped the Act even after having supported the legislation during the BJP rule. The Act remained dumped and a select committee was formed by his government to review and suggest any ‘improvements or amendments’ in the Act. The BJP, too, promised to implement the Act if it came to power in the assembly polls in 2017. However, after winning the elections in 2017, it has never appeared serious on implementing the Act, although in its first assembly session, the BJP Government promised to implement the same within the next 3 months! Later, another select committee was constituted by the BJP Government and, though the report has long been submitted by the committee, it has not been discussed in the House or even brought up. The state government always has been offering the lame excuse that the Lokayukta legislation is the property of the House and that the government could not do anything about it. The hesitation on part of the government does cast a shadow on the Zero Tolerance towards corruption claim of the government. In fact, the government has even been pulled up by the Uttarakhand High Court as well as Supreme Court for its lack of interest in implementing the new Act and appointing the Lokayukta. That complaints are still being received, including many of serious nature, necessitates the appointment of a Lokayukta. In fact, activists believe that many more complaints would have been received had the post of Lokayukta not been vacant.