Fodder scam, Laluji and me: Pratim Ranjan Bose.

Pratim - CopyChara Ghotala or Fodder Scam made it to the headlines in mid 1990’s, when I was a cub reporter.

Initially the news did not make much resonance to me, except that a popular Chief Minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav, is involved in it. There was no reason either.

I grew up in the days of Bofors scandal; entered the profession in the peak of Securities Scam; followed reports on NFL scam, Gold Star Scam, JMM bribery case and all such high profile scams linked to the country’s Prime Ministers and/or their next of keen. From that perspective, Chara Ghotala was merely a dehati edition of a fraud that had taken place in a land known for lawlessness.

But, destiny made it that I would know more about this scam than never before. The case was investigated from CBI office in Kolkata headed by deputy director Upen Biswas, who is now a minister in Mamata Banerjee’s Cabinet.

Naturally, as a city-based reporter, tracking fodder scam was important for my professional existence. And, I still remember the endless rounds made at the corridors of CBI office in Kolkata to get tit-bits on the investigation process and reporting the same.

Sooner or later, the pieces started falling together and, I was forced to amend my outlook on the scam. Contrary to my initial opinion, it was no dehati affair. But, a very well designed fraud that was sucking out public money for personal gains for nearly two decades in Bihar.

It was time for me to understand the intricacies of designing a scam from close quarters. It was time to know how a few good men (like the police inspector Bidhu Bhushan Dvivedi, who prepared a vital report in 1992) in the system always worked in isolation to prevent such malicious activities.

It was time to realise, why lavish properties suddenly started crowding Ranchi’s skyline in the end 1980’s or early 1990’s; when the city’s industrial fortune was on the decline. It was the time, when, the state-owned Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC), one of the biggest employers of the region, was turning sick and reducing workforce.

But, Ranchi was simply getting bigger and wealthier in contradiction to such realities. The fodder that was meant for cattle, was converted into crores of rupees of cash pocketed by a few. It was much later that a banker in Ranchi, referred incidents of potential customers walking in with crores of rupees in cash.

All the cash was not used merely in properties. Some perhaps made its way to the political movement for statehood of Jharkhand. Though the demand for statehood was there for a long time, it peaked around the same time.

Fodder scam came to light in 1996. Though his party went out of favour with the electorate in Bihar since 2005, Lalu Prasad Yadav made it good in Delhi as the Railway Minister in the UPA-I government between 2004 and 2009. The verdict on October 30, 2013, may finally bring an end to his aspirations.

But the long list of more high profile scams in the last 17 years ( ) – right from stock market, banks, stamp papers, spectrum to coal block allocation – ensure that I will get more opportunity to  learn new techniques of pocketing public money and, make a living by writing on the same.

Pratim Ranjan Bose is a senior journalist with one of the leading pink papers. This article is being reproduced from his linkedin page :