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The seizure of nearly Rs 35 crore cash from the home of a domestic servant attached to the personal secretary of Jharkhand minister Alamgir Alam on Monday raises serious questions. Enforcement Directorate staff raided multiple locations in Ranchi in connection with an old corruption and money laundering case, and stumbled upon wads of current notes stuffed inside bags and suitcases in the house of Jehangir Alam, a servant working for Sanjeev Lal, personal secretary to Jharkhand rural development minister Alamgir Alam. Currency note counting machines had to be brought in to ascertain the exact value of cash seized and the counting went on till late in the night. The seizure of cash comes a week ahead of the polling for Lok Sabha elections, slated for May 13. 

As visuals of a “mountain load” of seized currency notes flashed on TV screens on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at the opposition alliance in his election rallies. Modi said, the entire nation is watching that the Congress has not put an end to its “looting spree”, but each paisa of looted money will have to be returned to the government. The Congress minister Alamgir Alam said, his PS Sanjeeb Lal “is a government employee and his services were provided to me by the department. He has been PS to two other ministers earlier.” He said, he had no personal relations with his PS and he had no knowledge whom the cash belonged to. But the most important point is, ED officials have found papers with the currency notes, which prove the minister’s link with cash transactions. Investigators said, they believed this was bribe money collected from transfers and posting of officers, and from allotment of tenders. 

The domestic servant Jehangir Alam’s monthly earning is hardly Rs 20,000, but more than 5,000 bundles of Rs 500 currency notes were reportedly recovered from his home. ED staff had raided six locations in Ranchi on Monday, and these included the premises of Jehangir Alam, a contractor Munna Singh, Road Construction department engineers Vikas Kumar and Kuldip Minz. Counting machines became hot after repetitive use by ED staff, and more machines had to be procured from banks to count the ill-gotten money. More than Rs 5 crore cash was seized from contractor Munna Singh’s premises. In neighbouring Odisha, while addressing an election rally, PM Narendra Modi said, “the shehzada of Congress will have to disclose how many such godowns full of cash have been concealed till now.” In Andhra Pradesh rally, Modi said, those who were crying hoarse about ED, are really feeling the pinch after watching today’s visuals. The PM said, “Modi will now return this money to the national coffers”. 

Monday’s raids were part of a probe into earlier scams involving alleged money laundering by Rural Development department chief engineer Veerendra Ram. He was arrested in February last year and suspended. He had admitted that he used to collect one to three per cent commission on road building and other tenders. ED had attached his properties worth several crores last year, and suspected that he was still involved in commission collection in government departments. In Monday’s search, several hand-written notes were found with cash relating to transfers and posting of Jharkhand government officers.  BJP MP Nishikant Dubey alleged that the entire cash belonged to Alamgir Alam and it was collected through transfers and posting and commissions from contractors.  In Sanskrit, there is an oft-repeated phrase “Pratakshyam Kim Pramanam” (Whatever visible does not require proof).  

The visuals are clear. Mounds of currency notes tumbling out of bags. No amlount of clarification or allegations by Congress will not hold water in this case. Jharkhand is a state rich in mineral and other natural resources, but most of the people in the state live below poverty level. But here we find leaders sleeping on wads of currency notes.  Naturally, the questions will be asked: What is the source of this money? Whom does this cash belong to? Last year, nearly Rs 350 crore cash was seized from a Congress MP in Jharkhand. This time, crores of rupees worth cash was seized from the servation attached to the personal secretary of a Congress minister. Naturally BJP is going to make it a big issue. In more election rallies, Congress and opposition leaders will raise question about ED, and Modi will remind people about the “mountain load of cash” to voters. He will also say, looted money will have to be returned.

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