Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Courts, Even God On The Side of Sadhu Yadav!

"Gautam Goswami Wanted To Tell The Full Truth About The Flood Scam, " says his wife Anuradha.

By Manuwant Choudhary

I visited the home of the late IAS officer Gautam Goswami, accused in the multi-crore flood relief scam, who died recently after suffering for a year from pancreatic cancer, something doctors in Patna were unable to detect.

My connection with Gautam is really through his wife Anuradha who happens to be the daughter of my family doctor and incidentally she was my classmate in kindergarden.

After I joined NDTV as a reporter I met Gautam a few times in course of my assignments and was well aware that he was a doctor by qualification and that even after he became an IAS he continued to take a fee for anything that he would do for the public. Rs.500 and the job was done, I was told.

But not just him most IAS officers are corrupt..but he was on a fast track.

Soon an article in The Outlook magazine describing him as a young upright IAS officer who has been transferred 23 times in 3 years for doing the right thing was hard to digest.

The journalist who wrote it was my colleage Faizan Ahmed and so when we confronted Faizan he told us that his editor had given him a 3 day deadline to find such an IAS and he called up all the IAS officers in Bihar and only Gautam picked up the telephone.

And there was no looking back.

From Outlook to Time it was easy.

He became a Time Hero..having a photograph on the cover pages alongwith Shah Rukh Khan.

My years in Bihar was mostly spent in highlighting the flood situation and how governments do not even distribute any relief.

I quit NDTV after I felt I had done my job and relief would happen.

I was right. It did happen.

And Gautam Goswami as Patna District Magistrate was made a nodal officer for the relief efforts.

And the media just loved him as helicopters air-dropped the materials to the affected.

The international media were also hunting for someone more serious than bimbos on their cover.

Its only later that the flood scam was discovered not by any journalist but from a group within the government.

The cheques issued by the DM to Bihar State Small Scale Industrial Corporation was going into an account held by Santosh Jha who set-up a private company with the same abbreviations.

Santosh Jha was Sadhu Yadav's man from Ghoghardiha in Madhubani district. He even owns a cinema hall there and would often accompany Sadhu Yadav, chief minister Rabri Devi's brother, to the districts, arranging all his funds.

But Gautam soon found himself in prison for 16 months.

Says his wife, "That really broke him. He should have been in prison for three months and he would have helped the investigations."

I asked her why he did not become and approver, she replied, "He was scared for us. They would harm us. But he wanted to tell the whole truth to the courts once trials began."

But that was not to be. The courts were aware of his poor health but the trial has not even started.

And now news is that the original FIR itself may be quashed as the central government, state government and the vigilance inquiry give differing figures as to the amount spent on relief!

Gautam Goswami did not deserve to be a Time Hero but nor did he deserve to die.

His wife tells that he joined Sahara as a stepping stone...he wanted to be a Lok Sabha Member of Parliament.

Once I had a story on how Rabri Devi the Bihar Chief Minister had not spent a single paisa on her constituency in 5 years and I needed confirmation and I asked Gautam Goswami as he was District Magistrate. Surprisingly, Gautam gave the quote on camera. "Arrre Manubhai aap to mera gala katwaa dega..."(Arre Manubhai you will get my neck axed!"), he told me as he ran out from his office as the deputy chief election commissioner was in town.

Gautam is survived by his wife Anuradha, son Vishal and daughter Bipasaa.

And Sadhu Yadav is your Honourable Member of Parliament.

A case of justice delayed, justice denied.

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