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Simultaneously, the investigation agency conducted a search operation at 20 places in West Bengal

Photo: Samakal

After coal smuggling, cow smuggling, teacher recruitment corruption, this time, India’s Central Investigating Agency CBI has started to look into the allegations of recruitment corruption in the municipality of West Bengal. The CBI conducted searches at around 20 places in various districts of the state including Kolkata from Wednesday morning. Unprecedentedly, 18 municipalities of the state and two people accused of recruitment corruption were searched simultaneously at their homes and offices.

On Wednesday, 16 teams of 100 CBI officers along with central forces along with a large number of CRPF jawans left the CBI office in Kolkata’s Nizam Palace to conduct a search operation.

Around 11 am, CBI officials entered the Bikash Bhawan of Salt Lake in the Department of Public Works and Urban Development. State Minister Firhad Hakim sits in this office. CBI raided 18 municipalities including Chunchura of Hooghly district, Dakshin Dumdum of North 24 Parganas district, New Barrackpore, Dumdum, Panihati, Kamarhati, Taki, Halishahar, Barahnagar, Titagarh, Shantipur of Nadia district at around 11:30 am along with the Department of Urban and Urban Development. A five-member CBI team also raided the flat of Jagudas Lane and the office of expelled Trinamool leader Shantanu Banerjee on the tip of Ayan Sheel, one of the accused Trinamool leaders in corruption. CBI officials conducted a long marathon search at all places.

According to CBI sources, since 2014, there has been corruption in the recruitment of various municipalities in the state. There has been corruption in recruitment in all positions from labourers, clerks, sweepers, drivers.

The CBI claims that the search operation in these municipalities is mainly due to the recovery of documents related to recruitment corruption. As per the rules, in the case of appointment in every municipality, proposals are presented and passed in the meeting of the Board of Councillors. The CBI will also collect the information about the signatures of the councilors on the resolutions passed. Municipal officials will be interrogated if necessary.

Incidentally, the ED arrested Trinamool leader Ayan Sheel on March 19 after investigating allegations that there has been massive recruitment corruption in West Bengal municipalities for the past 9 to 10 years. The Central Investigating Agency claims that the answer sheets of job aspirants for various posts in several municipalities of the state have been found after searching the office of Aion in Salt Lake. According to the investigators, this Trinamool leader has given jobs in several municipalities in exchange of money through an organization called ‘ABS Infrozone’, completely illegally. Soon after, Calcutta High Court Judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay ordered a CBI investigation into the case of recruitment corruption in state municipalities. After that, CBI conducted searches in several municipalities and urban development departments on Wednesday.

CBI claims that direct corruption information has been found in the appointment of more than 20 municipalities only through Aion. In addition, recruitment corruption has occurred in more than 60 municipalities of the state.

Meanwhile, when Minister Firhad Hakim was asked about such a marathon search by the CBI, he did not want to comment on the matter. However, the politics behind it have been made clear. He said, ‘We were looking into all the information regarding the recruitment. I have not found any irregularities so far. It would not be appropriate to say anything in advance about why this search is being conducted. However, I say again that the whole thing is politics.’

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