CBI looking for proof that he is a Minister
New Delhi: Close on the heels of the revelation that the State-owned BSNL had a state-of-the-art telephone exchange running surreptitiously at the residence of Marans, comes the expose that a full-fledged railway station was stealthily operational at another Union Minister’s farmhouse.
Highly placed sources in the CBI today confirmed that the railway station had been furtively set up to ferry exclusively the farmhouse workers between their place of work and their homes.
Train services, No: 9734 (up) and No: 9735 (down), were said to be operational unbeknownst to anyone other than the Minister and his minions.
The Railways, it seems, had provided the two trains under the usual ‘Minister’s quota’.
‘When the Minister asked for two fully operational trains, we never suspected anything amiss. We, in fact, thought it to be a reasonable request. We provided the two trains, each having 15 bogies, in good faith. We also built the railway station in his private farmhouse. But we never expected the Minister to use it for personal purposes,’ a senior Railway official was quoted as saying by the CBI.
The Railways, it is learnt, along with the train had also assigned a couple of station masters, a few TTEs, Guards, engine drivers and several green and red flags.
As it happens, the green and red flags are what blew the lid off the whole scandal.
During an internal stock-taking, senior audit officials managed to find out that a few flags were unaccounted and missing from the bunch.
‘Our radars fully alerted, we investigated further and got our first big break in the case, which is: The flags could not have been lost on their own,’ the railway official was quoted as saying by the CBI.
‘We immediately raised the query: Where is the man who generally waves the flag?’ the Railway official said. ‘The department searched for him for a few weeks and realised that he might also been missing.’
‘Then we put the question: what happened to the man who usually stops or starts the train upon seeing the flags. Again the department went into search mode and reported that he was also not found’.
‘Also, it came to our notice, during the search for the flags, that two trains were also not seen for a long period’.
‘One thing led to another, we finally cracked the case and found out that the flags could be in the trains. We alerted the CBI immediately. Now it is their job to find out the trains and the staff so that the all-important missing flags could be handed back to the government’.
The CBI sources, however, refused to name the Minister, saying that they have just reached the first stage of the investigation. ‘We have zeroed in on the location. We have also established that the trains were operational for his private purpose. We also know the identity of the man. We are just looking for that evidence, which will stand the scrutiny of the law, to establish that he is a Union Minister. ‘
Legal experts concurred with the CBI that establishing somebody as a union Minister could be the most difficult thing in the court of law. ‘For example, how do you prove that M K Azhagiri is a Minister in the Central cabinet? Is there any tangible evidence for that?’ asked a legal luminary.
Reacting to the developments, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said: ‘This is all an RSS conspiracy.’
‘Railways Secret Service, I mean,’ he said and added that he would not blame the Union Minister. ‘The engine driver is at fault. The whole controversy would not have arisen if the engine driver had put his foot down firmly. For instance, I am never shy of putting my foot firmly into my shoes or anyone who happens to be holding one’.
The CBI, it is said, has put up an official note to Union cabinet about the existence of a private railway station at a Minister’s farmhouse.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his response, however, pooh-poohed suggestions that there was any corruption involved in the whole affair. ‘There was complete transparency in the whole process and the railway services were not run in any underground tunnel’, he said. ‘Anyway, if it was run as a private railway service then it deserves to remain private. We can’t make public the investigations into it ’.
Government sources also said that the Union Cabinet would be convened shortly to discuss whether to discuss this private railway scandal at all.
In a related development, the Left parties staged a huge demonstration, comprising 23 people, in front of the Mambalam railway station in Chennai. ‘This seems to be a backdoor method to privatise the railways in this country. Pension funds and the money collected through sale of platform tickets should never be touched,’ Prakash Karat and Sitharam Yechury said in a joint statement.
(Disclaimer: Shortly coming: ISRO station was run by a private TV Group)