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Positive fallout of graft probe

After the coal block allocation scam, which contributed to the defeat of the United Progressive Alliance government, was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2012, Amit Kumar was soon told to head the probe team.

Kumar, already probing another multi-crore scam, in the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), brewing in Uttar Pradesh since November 2011, is now in the news for an international recognition.

The 1998-batch IPS officer from Chhattisgarh, while juggling between these twin probes, was also studying for a Master’s in Anti Corruption Studies from the Vienna based-International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) during 2012-14. This was sponsored by the department of personnel and training in the Union government.

His thesis was on the CBI probe into the NRHM scam in UP. They’ve registered a little over 70 cases so far. Kumar, a deputy inspector-general in the agency’s economic offences wing, has been awarded by the IACA at Laxenburg, Vienna, “for his innovative thesis paper”, disclosed CBI spokesperson Kanchan Prasad. In all, 31 students from 17 countries were a part of this programme.

No weekends
Kumar’s academic session coincided with the coal scam probe that he has been monitoring since March 2013. In the past two years, Kumar has been working on weekends continuously to ensure a smooth flow in the various investigations he was supervising and also write the thesis while conducting research in two districts of UP, Gorakhpur and Basti, sources said.

During this phase, he had to fly to Vienna six times for two weeks each and once to Kuala Lumpur as part of the programme. He is known to be a hard-task master in the agency. In January 2014, he got the President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Services.

CBI lessons
Kumar’s thesis was on how sleuths should focus on quality investigation, citing the NRHM case which dealt with alleged irregularities in the utilisation of Rs 10,000 crore allocated to Uttar Pradesh during 2005-11.

The thesis concluded that investigating small cases makes less of a significant impact, with quality and a time-bound probe leading to unearthing of big scams. Investigative agencies should focus on big cases which can set an example. These should be concluded in a time-bound manner, the thesis says.

The Supreme Court has, many times in the recent past, pulled up CBI for delaying investigations in major cases, including on coal allocation.

There are marginal returns in probing small cases because of the resources involved , Kumar’s thesis said.

Fear factor
Another point the thesis highlighted was that once scams like the NRHM one come to light, to can lead to a fear of being suspected for wrongdoing among the officials. This can be a disincentive for decision making and big infrastructure projects do not take off.

For instance, the UP government was spending 16-17 per cent of its annual funds on NRHM in 2011, which has come down to 12-13 per cent at present. The thesis said officials were holding back funds because of the hesitation to spend, in the fear of coming under the net of the CBI probe.

Kumar’s thesis says there are grey areas in the rule books which need to be transparent and systematic, so that officials are clearer about the rules and procedures.

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