Bihar Srijan Scam: How an NGO Siphoned 700 crores, Alleged Mastermind Died
Had it not been a case of bounce cheque of 270 crores of the government’s exchequer, the Bhagalpur Srijan Scandal may never have come to light. Recently, the Supreme Court ordered to pay the compensation amount of 200 crores to the farmers in Bihar in return of land acquisitions. The beneficiaries went to Bank of Baroda and Indian Bank with the sanctioned amount but, as bizarre result, the government cheque bounced which surprised the bank officials and put the administration on alert mode.
Media reports claim that Srijan was indulged in the act of forge for more than 10 years. Manorama Devi orchestrated the fraud by transferring the funds of the government into the private account of cooperative bank of Srijan. More than 20 branches of the bank were opened in various villages and pachayats.
After the case of cheque bounce, the investigation uncovered the unauthenticated transactions of 700 crores via a parallel banking system. The funds granted for Mukhyamantri Urban Development and other welfare schemes were used by Manorama Devi for personal benefits. The report also claims that many politicians and bureaucrats used Srijan to park their black money with the medium of money laundering. They were also granted personal loans.
The Bihar government had strictly directed to use State Bank of India for the government transactions, yet the two private banking banks were pooled in. Formers District Magistrates of Bhagalpur tried to check the suspicious movement of Srijan cooperative banks, but the influence of Manorama Devi always whittled down the probe. Former SDM Bhagalpur Vipin Kumar wrote to the Block Development Officers in Bhagalpur to not deposit the government exchequer into Srijan Cooperative Bank, but the system carried on.
More than 14 people have been arrested so far in the Bhagalpur Treasury siphoning. The Nitish government has ordered CBI inquiry into this matter. The alleged mastermind behind this scam is 65 years old Manorama Devi, who died on 13th February this year. She was known as ‘Srijan Didi’.
What is Srijan NGO?
Srijan Mahila Sahyog Samiti NGO is a self-help group for ‘Kaushal Vikas for women’ active in the Bhagalpur district of Bihar with a workforce of more than 6000 members, 60 staffs and office premises spread over more than 24,000 sq. ft in Bhagalpur.
The NGO was shifted from Ranchi to Bihar in 2003-04. The then District Magistrate of Bhagalpur KP Ramaiah allocated government land on lease for a monthly rental of only 200 rupees. He also started several welfare schemes for the women in Bhagalpur. More than 1000 sewing machines were distributed under the scrutiny of Manorama Devi. This event marked the emergence of Manorama Devi and she was christened as ‘Srijan Didi’.
Srijan established its headquarter on the land and simultaneously initiated Srijan cooperative Bank in 2007-08. The bank became a gateway to siphon the public money with the help of bank officials and bureaucrats. Under the nose of the government, Srijan forged DM’s signature on cheques, transferring the amount to its cooperatives banks maneuvered by Manorama Devi. The siphoned money was then funneled to the market for various investment and private infrastructure projects.
In the name of Srijan, many bogus and ghost groups were formatted. Every group got their registered bank accounts.The scam also involved government employees. Mahesh Mandal an accused of the Srijan scam died in a Bhagalpur hospital on Saturday.
The Quint reported that further investigation revealed that whenever a government cheque was deposited at one of the two banks involved in the scam, Indian Bank and Bank of Baroda, bank employee or a clerk would inform Manorama Devi. The NGO would then deposit the same amount into the government account so the cheque doesn’t bounce. Since the death of Manorama Devi in February, it became uneasy for her family to manage the scam smoothly. Now her daughter in Law Priya Kumar and her husband Amit are absconded, reports The Indian Express.
Srijan wore a mask of manufacturing spices, sattu, incense sticks, Bindis and Papad but the backdrop of the cottage industry was filled with money laundering and siphoning of public money. The RJD Chief Lalu Yadav and the fodder scam convict has alleged the Nitish government that the funds were transferred to private accounts between 2005 and 2013 when BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi was Deputy CM and finance minister and Nitish the Chief Minister.
Multiple photographs of Late Manorama Devi with senior BJP leaders like Giriraj Singh and Shahnawaz Hussain were also surfaced during the investigation. The opposition is seeking advantage out of this situation but it looks premature to allege the leaders involved in the scam until the investigation is not completed. But this is obvious that there are too many loose-ends in this multi crore scam. In the last 10 years, despite some of the whistleblowers raised this issue to the state government and the RBI, no actions were taken at that time. There is no denying fact that the wires of Srijan scam are connected to many big politicians, bureaucrats and government bank officials of Bihar.